Monday, September 27, 2010

Park It...

When I adopted/rescued my standard poodle, Rosie, she was so traumatized that she wouldn't leave her kennel/crate. I let her eat in there for a few weeks, then gradually moved her dish toward the kitchen, about a foot a week. For a few weeks, she ate in the middle of the living room floor, but eventually, she got her own corner of the kitchen and she was OK.

I should interject here for a minute to tell you that Rosie was named Gracie when I got her, but the kid decided she liked Rosie better. Rosie and Gracie end in the same sound and the transition was seamless.

So, back to my story.

It took MONTHS, I mean at least 3 WHOLE MONTHS, for her to let my father pet her. We deduced that she was afraid of tall men. Rosie was most definitely neglected, but rather quickly it became apparent that she was abused too. Rosie quivered and leaked droplets of urine all over the place whenever my father came into the room. Dad's over 6 feet tall and I guess her former owner, if you could call him that, was tall too. Once she calmed down enough, they went on their nightly jaunts around the block.

I had a trainer come to my house to help a bit. We taught Rosie to lie down, to wait, to "go get it," meaning her toys. If we said, "GrandmaGrandpa," she stopped in front of my parents' door. She's totally house-trained. But we couldn't get her to sit.

You'd put a treat near her face, to attempt her back into a sitting position, and she'd turn her head. You'd attempt it again and you could actually see the dark clouds swoop into her eyes and she get up and walk away to a quiet corner and lie down, staring at you in fear.

That was April of 2009.

In the meantime, we tried to get her to allow being touched by strangers. It took 16 months before she'd let a stranger on the street touch her. Before that, a neighbor would hold their hand out and she recoil in fear and hide behind me. Finally, she let someone touch her and I swear, I cried and I told the man what a break-through it was to have her let him scratch her chin. He didn't seem impressed because when he stopped scratching her ears to talk to me about it, she nudged him for some more scratches.

We still were trying new methods for sitting. Then, in about November of 2009, we changed the name of the command. We asked her to "park it." We'd tap her rump, hold a treat and still she wouldn't do it. You could almost see her brain figuring out what we wanted her to do and she'd rebel against it. The dark clouds would return. My otherwise happy, well-adjusted pet would quiver in fear again.

I knew we just needed to be patient with her and wait for the breakthrough.

Well, it happened yesterday, 10 months of asking her to "park it" later, she finally parked it! I tapped her rump and said the command while we were sitting outside and she did it! I only had to ask her once! She parked it! Finally! I wonder who many exclamation points I need to help get my point across!


She did it for me and then for the kid!

And honestly, Rosie looked so damned pleased with herself. She finally realized that we're not going to hurt her and we're not going to let anyone else hurt her either.

I've always said that having a dog love and trust you is one of life's most beautiful experiences. And now that fact is proven to me yet again. Rosie came into our lives when we needed a little hope, something else to focus on once the pain of the divorce was truly over. Rosie quickly became the kid's favorite playmate and my secret-keeper. Many nights, certainly more than I'm ready to admit to, Rosie's neck was wet with my tears of exhaustion and loneliness. Then she'd cuddle up next to my bed (or on the bathroom floor when it go too hot to lie on the carpet) and she'd send me the signal that it's OK to trust, that things always improve when it's least expected.

Isn't it amazing that I had to learn one of life's most valuable lessons from a dog?

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