Monday, May 23, 2011
Adjusted to Love
For those of you who might recall, Theo is the half-poodle, half Jack Russell Terrier pup who came to me from New England Poodle Rescue on March 20th - just nine weeks ago. I first blogged about him here.
In a word, Theo has adjusted. As have I. We've both done quite well, in fact.
Oh, we've still got many miles to go together, but I can see so much progress in the past nine weeks, it's really quite remarkable.
The trial was over long ago.
He rarely "shivery-shakes" any more - except when he's in his car seat and we're traveling in the car together. I think he associates being in the car with going to the Vet or, perhaps, when he was first rescued from that hoarding situation.
The car seat allows him to look out the windshield and side window while being held securely in his harness. That seems better than being in the travel crate where I could hear him whine and whimper in the back seat.
He's gotten much better, now jumping into the car and right into his car seat so I can buckle him in. The last few days, he's learned to settle down and curl himself up in his seat. He still looks at me with pleading eyes that ask, "You're not going to leave me somewhere, are you?"
I talk to him in soothing tones, play music for us and sing to him.
We're about to take a four hour trip back to NJ on Thursday, on our way back home to DE, so I'm hoping he'll do well. At least the trip will be broken up - four hours and then three hours, with stops for water and walks along the way.
While he still doesn't yet know what to make of "doggie toys" he's gotten much more animated the past month or so. He's really quite a clown - especially when he wants to let me know it's time to go outdoors for his . . . 'constitutional'.
He dances, is what he does. Dances and runs to the stairs. Then dances and runs back to me. When I get up, he does this happy-happy-joy-joy dance and I can almost hear him singing, "She got it! She understands! There IS a God! Alleluia!"
When I put on my shoes, more dancing. When I put on my jacket, he is flat-out ecstatic. He calms himself enough to sit patiently while I get his leash and put it on him - something I've yet to teach Ms. Coco or Mr. Lenny. I am deeply grateful. He's quite a gentleman.
Then, he races down the stairs and jumps at the door as if to say, "Now, Mama. Now. Hurry. I can only be so good for so long."
I have begun to let go of the leash and let him race down three flights of stairs where he jumps at the door again. Sometimes, he barks and dances round and round until I pick up the leash, open the door, and out we go.
He's fascinated by the various squirrels, chipmunks and bunnies who live in the neighborhood. He stands very still and stares at them. They stare back. It's an interesting little standoff because the other critters seem to know that he is on a leash and they are not. I think Theo is oblivious to the leash.
The other day there was a wild turkey strutting through the back yard. Such an odd, awkward elegance. Theo's hair was standing on end as he stood very still, watching the turkey trot here and there, looking for a plan of escape.
Theo was very brave, even though the turkey was a much bigger creature. And then there was the matter of that rather large beak. He never barked, just stood his ground in front of me and stared down this strange creature which finally managed to get itself over the fence and into the next yards.
I'm convinced it's all about protecting me from them - the squirrels, the chipmunks, the bunnies and the wild turkeys. I fall in love with him all over again every time he does this.
I can even now leave the kitchen while he's eating or drinking and he continues to eat or drink. Not long ago, I couldn't have done that. He was too nervous.
I have been giving him a few drops of "Rescue Medicine" - actually, it's called "Anxiety TFLN" (Thunderstorms/Fireworks/Loud Noises) by "HomeoPet". It contains things like Rhodendron and Chamomilla - sort of a 'sleepy time tea' for dogs.
I give it to him before we go out for a walk or a ride in the car and it does seem to help - just takes the edge off the anxiety a bit. He still doesn't like loud noises - leaf blowers, trucks hitting a pot hole, sirens - and hides behind my legs when he hears them. But, he's much friendlier with people on the street.
Indeed, I haven't seen a shred of evidence of the report that he doesn't like men. He greats everyone - male and female - with the same caution when first introduced. Gradually, though, he warms up and will now go to someone who comes down to his level and extends an open hand. Oh, he's still Very Cautious, but he doesn't stand and shivery-shake the way he first did.
And, Mr. Theo has a voice. Oh, yes. Yes, he does. Quite mouthy, in fact, when he hears any noise downstairs or outside. Again, it's all about protecting me, so I understand. It is funny, though, when he barks and grumbles and huffs.
Sometimes, he sounds like he's cursing, "Grrrumble. Think you can come into my turf, do you? Grrrumble. Snort. Woof. Don't even think about opening that door. Grrumble. Woof. Snort. I will show you who's in charge here. You... you... whoever you are."
No amount of soothing reassurances - "It's okay, boy" - or stern directions to "Stop! No barking!" will deter him from what he believes is his bounded duty to protect and defend me from whatever unknown, unseen dangers may be lurking.
Despite my mild annoyance or concern that he may disturb my neighbors, in those moments, I fall in love with him all over again.
Except, of course, for those times when he comes to me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the morning or afternoon and pats his paw on my arm, asking for a head or belly rub.
Or, those times at night, with what's become our bedtime ritual. I come into the bedroom, he's curled up on my pillow. I pout and try to sound sad and say, "Theo." He looks at me and then turns his head while I get undressed (told you he was a gentleman).
As I turn down the covers, he sighs and moves slowly from the pillow. As soon as I get into bed, he nuzzles his snout and head under my arm while I stroke his silky coat and tell him how much I love him, and what a good boy he's been and how tomorrow is going to be an even better day.
Then, he cuddles and snuggles as we say our prayers (Compline, of course) before I turn off the light and we drift off to sleep.
Did I mention I'm in love?
A friend of mine has bought a bumper sticker for me. It's waiting for me when I return to NJ. It says, "Who rescued who?"
I think that just about says it all.
Oh, except this: If you are thinking about bringing a pet into your life - a dog, a cat, a bird - before you head out to the Mall or answer that ad in the paper for puppies that start at $250 apiece, please consider visiting your local Rescue Center.
Or, go online, type in the breed you're looking for, followed by the words "rescue". You might even narrow the search by typing in your state. It's amazing - and heartbreaking - the number of pets who are waiting for a good, loving home.
One of them may be yours.
Oh, it's a bit of an adjustment - on both sides - one that involves adjusting to love.
Love is an adjustment of the heart that changes your whole world. It opens your heart and warms your days. It rescues you from your own small way of thinking that expands your perspective on life.
We've only been together for nine weeks, but I couldn't imagine life without Theo. Indeed, has there been life before Theo? If there was, I can't remember much about it.
Love can do that to a person. And, I think, to dogs as well.