It was last Monday that we began the official process of rehabbing Sawyere, and exactly one week later, it’s a perfect time to take a look at how far we’ve come.
Last week we were afraid to touch Sawyere’s neck area. This week we know that he loves being touched and petted, on his neck and his back and his tummy and his head. The sequence of events which likely resulted in the idea that his neck was off limits is easy to avoid. It’s also easy to break down into parts. By working on one part at a time, we’ve been able to desensitize him to that particular sequence so that it no longer causes a reaction. He’s so OK with having his neck touched, in fact, that twice, when I’ve instinctively grabbed his collar in the car, he’s had no reaction (even when, once, it was because a squirrel had run right in front of us). And the same thing happened tonight, when a Boom Towne employee grabbed his collar to avoid getting smothered with smooches from him–no reaction.
Speaking of touching, last week we realized that he was overly sensitive to touches, loving them, but being overstimulated by them at the same time. This week, he just assumes we’ll be petting him, and he runs to us and leans against us to make sure he doesn’t miss one bit of his massage.
Last week, he was engaged in an almost-constant fight with his leash. This week, he walks quite nicely on leash most of the time; in fact, often he’s loose-leash walking. This week, if he does start to get annoyed at his leash, it’s very easy to redirect his attention, or even to just say something like, ‘Nah, Sawyere, that’s old news; give it up, kiddo.’
Last week, he hadn’t run or played hard in four months. This week, he runs until he’s tired, and plays three or four times per day. Thanks, Boom Towne!
Last week, he was so environmentally sensitive, focusless, and edgy that he barely noticed us, and didn’t respond to his name. This week, with the help of his pheromone collar, Bach flower essences, valerian*, and Thundershirt, and with the wonderful new skill Miss Sherri has taught him, of purposefully lying down on his side to hear some quiet talk and feel some gentle hands on him, he has longer calm periods each time we see him.
Last week, we hoped we might help Sawyere with his dog aggression issues. This week, we know that he must be the only pet in his new home. While that makes us a little sad, there are many, many dogs of whom this is true, and since most dog owners do live with just one dog, we don’t doubt that Sawyere will find a wonderful home. And as Miss Sherri pointed out, his stunning good looks are a valuable asset. Sawyere, you handsome hunk of hound!
Last week at this time, Sawyere appeared to know almost no words of English. This week, not only does he sit with a verbal or visual cue; he completely understands the concept of sitting down without being asked, as his way of requesting something he wants.
And this week, he knows, ‘down’; he knows some form of, ‘swing over onto your hips’; he knows, ‘Can I have a kiss?’**; he appears to know, ‘come’, and he definitely knows, ‘Go find your ball.’ And he knows, best of all, ‘Good boy, Sawyere!’
Last week, his tummy was upset. This week, after stabilizing and tweaking his diet and adding some delicious and stomach-settling ingredients like canned pumpkin and baby food beef, along with acidophilus capsules, there are signs (the kind you need to scoop) that things are getting nicely back to normal in his tum.
Speaking of that, last week we had no idea whether he was housetrained. This week, it seems almost certain that he is–he’s a clean guy, our Sawyere.
Last week, he didn’t like to make eye contact much. This week, he knows how to look at us even while we’re holding his favorite toy an arm length’s away, prior to tossing it for him.
Last week, we were surprised that he’d managed his long car ride to us as well as he had, since, prior to that, car trips had made him nauseous. This week we know that he absolutely loves riding in a car.
Last week–and this is a huge one–we didn’t know if he was a ‘people dog’, in general. This week, we know that he is, and that he’s a love sponge, in fact. He likes meeting new people, and he loves seeing his old friends. When we’re all in the same room together, at Miss Sherri’s, he’s clearly delighted, and frolics like a puppy.
Last week, we thought that he might guard all of his resources. This week, we have yet to see even one sign of any resource guarding from him, although we were forewarned and so have yet to try a rawhide.*** Soon we will, though, and based on what I know from something I’ll write below, at the ***, I have high hopes he’ll do OK with his rawhide, too.
Last week, we wondered whether, with hundreds of ‘issue-less’ dogs waiting to be adopted, a dog like Sawyere, who has some difficult behavior patterns, would be a likely choice for someone. This week, after having seen the admiring glances and friendly interest with which people greet him at Boom Towne, we realize that the same attractive spark which made us want to save him is burning even brighter in him now. Hearing someone ask, ‘He’s beautiful and seems like such a sweetie. Is he going to be up for adoption?’, is music to our ears.
Last week, we were worried that we would be a burden to the Boom Towne staff, and worried that their schedule, our schedules, and Sawyere’s schedule, would be too tricky to juggle. This week, we know that we can trust each other to make slight adjustments and compromises in order to keep Sawyere, and all the other dogs under that roof, healthy, happy, and safe. We’ve made some new friends, as we all come together to work on Sawyere’s behalf, and look forward to passing along the day’s, ‘Sawyere updates’. And we Team Sawyere members have made some plans to bring our own dogs out for riproarin’ play times in the fenced acres at Boom Towne–that’s a really great idea, Miguel!
Somehow, Team Sawyere (a musician, a floral designer and arranger, a bartender, and two retired professionals), with the help of our really wonderful trainer, is helping Sawyere even better and faster than we’d hoped. When you think that even a beginning puppy class is at least six weeks long, you realize just how far he’s come in one week. Thank goodness we have Mr. Mike to get Sawyere’s progress on tape, because I predict that it might end up being hard to believe his improvement, without evidence.
Thank you, Team Sawyere, and be proud. Thank you, Miss Sherri, for your invaluable instructions, your compassionate approach, and your optimistic attitude. Thank you, Mr. Mike, for documenting this amazing project–it takes a real dog lover like you to do it justice. Thank you, Boom Towne folks, for your flexibility, your kindness, and your sincere support of our efforts. Thank you, Elmore SPCA people, for giving us this chance to help Sawyere.
Most of all, thank you, Sawyere, and keep up the great work!
* Everybody doing meals, please open two acidophilus capsules and one valerian capsule (or two, at night) and sprinkle the contents over Sawyere’s food.
** I forgot to tell you yesterday that, in addition to his unrequested kisses, he’ll give you a kiss when you ask him for one.
*** Although Sawyere has exhibited no guarding, the Elmore folks did tell us that he guards rawhides. So while Jeanne is absolutely right–Sawyere loves to chew, and it calms and comforts him–we should give him lower value chewies, for now. I discovered today that he really likes a good Nylabone, so we should get him one of the super tough huge-sized ones, preferably with a flavor. I did give him a beef tendon tonight, because I knew it would be gone by tomorrow morning, when Jeanne comes (although, if it isn’t gone, I wouldn’t argue over it, Jeanne). I did notice, when I gave it to him, that he showed no sign of being overly interested in it, and simply picked it up and moved it to a different spot, before coming to the door to say goodbye to me. It didn’t look like he was prepared to guard it, and he did not guard the Nylabone, nor the ‘used’ marrow bone at Tails of Success. Still, let’s take this very slowly and not challenge him for ownership of things just yet, until Sherri has tested him on high-value chewies.