Thursday, August 13, 2009

Baby Steps and Bucky

Slim is still more frightened deer than normal dog, but he did come up to me this morning and allow me to pet him. I held him and loved on him. However, he hasn't approached me again. I hope that in a few more days he will be comfortable with me. At that time, I will start working one-on-one with him. If I can get him to use the doggy door, obey some simple commands, and not mess up his crate, we can find a home for him. He is an attractive dog with white feet, a white-tipped tail, and a white-blazed chest. His overall coat is a deep chocolate with tan points.

I began fostering dogs a few years ago. My mother was feeble and I was spending a lot of time watching over her. She lived a few blocks from me, which was wonderful, especially after she broke her hip. I lived with her for a couple of months while she recuperated and I was able to go back and forth to my house to take care of my dogs. I work from home, so I could take care of my mother and stay employed. When she was back on her feet, I realized that when the time came and she passed from this world my life would have a huge void in it. The remainder of my family is emotionally distant and I don't see them usually unless I call or reach out to them. I knew that I wouldn't do that much because I don't want to bother people who can't be bothered. So, I decided to do something that would give me pleasure and get me out of my small little world.

Fostering was what came to mind. My mother tried to talk me out of it because, frankly, she wanted all of my free time. But I decided it would be good for my dogs, too. They were snappy and freaked out every time they saw a new dog. I couldn't take them on walks without them going bananas every time they saw someone or another animal. Their small world needed to be expanded, too.

I didn't see much improvement in my dogs until I fostered a certain guy named Bucky. He is a doxie mix and has an uncanny way of getting along with all dogs and showing unsocial dogs how to be social. Bucky actually demonstrated to my dogs how to meet other dogs (sniffing butts, approaching each other sideways, etc.) and how to play with other dogs. It was a sad and joyous day when he was adopted. I remain in contact with his owner Bob. Bob even brings Bucky to PetSmart when I'm showing dogs with ARF for visits. Bucky now "works security" at the dog park, keeping the peace. He's the right dog for the job.

Bucky also showed me that I could learn a lot from my dogs and foster dogs. Bucky taught me the importance of patience and taking joy in the baby steps of progress. When my Gypsy (chihuahua/rat terrier) would run up to Bucky with her screaming, screeching, ear-splitting barking, Bucky pinned back his ears and turned aside. He ignored her until she chilled. He went about his business for a few minutes and then he would slowly approach her. She would run at him in a false "charge" and Bucky would turn and trot the other way. They did this every day for almost a week. Bucky was patient. He waited for a baby step. On the sixth day he was rewarded. Gypsy ran toward him, but instead of barking and snarling, she stopped and did a "let's play bow" in front of him. Bucky responded in kind. Then they ran at each other, around each other, and then Gypsy ran away from him. Bucky didn't follow her. Baby steps had been made and he was satisfied for now.

Every day after that brought more baby steps. After about 10 days, my dogs and Bucky were a pack. They played together, walked together, laughed together (yes, dogs do laugh), and ate together.

Bucky was my assistant dog trainer while I had him. I will be forever in his debt.

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