Baby Steps

One thing I’ve had to learn with Lady, is to watch for even the tiniest hints of progress. After 8-10 years of living outside with little human contact, she has a lot to overcome. And think about it–she doesn’t know what she was missing all those years! It’s not like she sat there every day thinking, “Gee, I sure wish someone would rescue me so I can be a house dog!” To her, that life was just life, and everything that has happened to her over the last few months is just different, new, and scary.

So it’s easy to get frustrated that she doesn’t come to me for pets or treats, or that she wants to spend most of her time sleeping in her crate. It’s really sad to me that she seems to have absolutely NO Sheltie instincts at all. Heck, she barely seems to have any dog instincts–she’s kind of like a living couch potato with no purpose in her life now that she’s done having puppies. But I’m learning to watch for the little things and see those as progress, because really, we’re teaching her how to be a dog all over again.

One HUGE thing happened on Friday–Lady barked!!! I took her outside to go potty before we left for the vet, and there were some birds singing up in the trees. She looked in that direction and barked twice! The only other times we’ve heard her make a peep were once when we first got her and Murphy startled her with his wet nose while she was sleeping, and then last week John said she made a little woof in her sleep. Otherwise, she has been completely silent. I was so excited to hear her bark that I had to contain myself from scooping her up for a big hug, which would of course have scared the crap out of her. (What’s really ironic about this is that Murphy, on the other hand, barks ALL the time–like most Shelties do–so I had to laugh at the thought that I was so excited to hear a Sheltie bark. I may regret these words someday!)

Another small victory came about this weekend too. Lady has had no clue what to do with a bone. She’s probably never had one before! I’ve tried giving her a rawhide or even an oxtail when I made vegetable soup, and she just gives me a look like I’ve lost my mind. So this weekend I gave her a raw beef short rib in her crate. She sniffed it, then circled around it a few times, licked it, and then tried to take a bite. She couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t just come apart into bites, but at least she kept sniffing at it instead of just giving up and ignoring it. So I finally got halfway into her crate with her and held the bone steady for her, and she actually chewed a few bites off of it. I tried to show her how to put her paw over it to hold it, but she didn’t quite get that idea. But again, it was progress…she has always pretty much ignored anything like that in the past, so it was good to see her show some curiosity!

She also continues to be more and more excited over mealtimes. Any time she sees me in the kitchen, she gets up, comes out of her crate, and paces back and forth to see if I’m going to bring her anything. Sometimes when I look up from the sink, she’s peeking around the table at me, and when I do bring her something, she wags her tail like crazy. It’s slow progress, but it’s definitely a step ahead of where she started.

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