9. Annie goes to college!

IMG_1826

Our son returned to college in January, a couple of weeks before we adopted Annie. He was on the lacrosse team and this would be his first season playing college lacrosse. We were so excited and planned to travel to as many of his games as possible. After we had Annie for a couple of weeks, I realized that perhaps we would not be able to travel to his games like we originally planned. When we brought her home she was terrified of everything, even the car. Getting her out of the yard was a huge endeavor, bringing her to a game seemed impossible. As the weeks progressed and she responded well as we slowly introduced new places, I began to hope that maybe we could bring her with us to watch him play. Leaving her home wasn’t a consideration, either she came with us or we wouldn’t go at all.

When the season started we were staying home with Annie but we were able to stream the games and watch his team play. During Spring Break the team traveled to Colorado and this was my first opportunity to go to a game. My parents live there so I went out for a visit and I was able to bring my parents to the two games on his schedule. Because my parents live out of town they hadn’t seen him play very often so when he hit the field for the first time in his college uniform we were all thrilled.

The player’s parents have a tradition of putting out a meal for the team after each game. At the beginning of the season we all chose a game in which we would be in charge of the meal. The game we had volunteered for was quickly approaching and we still weren’t sure how we would do it. It would be easier if we were both there and we both wanted to watch a game in the home stadium so at the last minute we decided we would both go. We were sharing the responsibility with another family and we would only have to bring coolers with drinks and paper goods so there was room in the car for both dogs and our supplies.

We loaded everybody up and headed out very early that morning. Once we arrived I led both dogs to a really nice grassy patch near the entrance to the stadium. It was well shaded and Maisie could greet people coming and going and Annie could stay by my side and watch. Once all the spectators were settled we went in and were able to sit on a bench at the top with no one around us. Annie stood stiffly by my side for the entire game. She always chose to stand rather than sit when she was a nervous and I knew this was a lot of stimulation for her but I kept my hand by her side to comfort her and as the game went on she continued to look around and tried to relax.

After the game our son came over to greet us. Maisie was beside herself once she realized that she had found her boy in this new place. She smothered him with kisses and rolled right over for a belly rub. Annie stood behind me and watched Maisie’s reaction in an effort to figure out if this boy was someone she should know. Tom gave her a gentle pat but quickly backed off to give her some space. It was a great first meeting even though I know it was a little stressful for her. I was prepared to wait in the car with her if it seemed like it was too much but she really seemed to be OK with Maisie, Chris and I all right next to her so I considered this excursion to be a success.

We took her to 3 more games and at each of those she was much more relaxed and would lie down or sit right by me. We always chose a spot that was far away from other spectators and she was still shy around my son but I was so happy that we could bring her with us and she was learning that she would be OK in new places.

 

 

8. Back to the vet, which means back in the car!

Four weeks after her first vet visit she had an appointment for her re-check. We had been working so hard to earn her trust and we were making good progress. When it was time to go to the vet, we were prepared for her to put on the brakes again but fortunately this time she went a little more easily. I had to lift her hind end a couple of times to keep her moving but we made it to the car and once again my husband lifted her into the back and she let out a huge groan.

When we arrived we opened the side door for her to climb out of the car, which she did in a hurry, and once again she charged through their front door and straight into the same open exam room she had picked last time. Just like last time, they let us stay there while we waited for the vet to meet us. We had brought Maisie along for support and I think that helped. Maisie doesn’t mind the vet and Annie was more relaxed having her in the room with us. It was a quick visit and the weather was nice so we decided to take advantage of the fact that we had gotten her out of the yard and took her out for her first walk.

This went much better than I could have expected. She pulled a little but not so much that we couldn’t control her. On 3 different occasions she picked out a house and sat down on the lawn. We waited while she looked around and after a few moments she got back up and walked again. She didn’t seem to like the feel of the concrete so we tried to guide her to

IMG_1023
Annie’s first walk

the parkway, but really she just weaved back and forth across the sidewalk sometimes on lawns sometimes on the parkway, occasionally speeding up then slowing down and of course parking herself for a few moments on those 3 occasions. She liked having Maisie next to her and would crash into her every now and then like she was just checking to make sure this was OK. We walked around for about 20 minutes and about half way through she figured out the pace and walked along easily next to Maisie. When we got to the car she watched Maisie climb in through the side door and Annie rushed to follow her. She did not want to be picked up again and she would figure it out by herself, what a relief for all of us!

We were feeling so good about the morning that we decided to push things a little more and head for the dog beach. This was all part of Maisie’s weekend routine and we hoped that Annie would like it too. We took Maisie to the beach year round but this time of year (the middle of March) the beach was not officially open and only a handful of dogs and owners showed up during the winter months. We knew most everyone there and they were all dog lovers who would be understanding of Annie and her need for space.

This time getting out of the car she seemed excited to be going somewhere and she followed Maisie straight to our destination. Once there, Maisie took off to run with all of her pals and Annie stuck pretty close to my side while we walked along the water line. My husband told everyone about her because of course they wanted to meet her, but once they heard about her background they all respectfully kept their distance hoping that one day she would be comfortable with the group.

We’d been there about 15 minutes when another big boy Landseer arrived. Annie took one look at him and started running toward him. She hadn’t shown interest in any other dogs and I just knew that she thought she recognized him. There was a large boy Landseer

IMG_1033
Wait a minute, you’re not Rio!

at her foster home and I think she thought this boy was Rio. Once they started sniffing each other she got really shy and ran off. She has never approached him again which makes me a little sad but it was so sweet that she was looking for her friend. After that, she found a spot away from the crowd and she and I sat down to watch all of the other dogs run around.

 

We didn’t stay long, and when it was time to go, she followed us right out, walked well on the leash and hopped into the car. We had pushed her and she had done really well, we all felt relieved as we headed home and for the first time I was hopeful that we really could take Annie places and she wouldn’t always have to stay home.

We went back to the beach the next day, and she went right in and said hello to a couple of dogs and owners before lying down to watch the activity. By the next weekend she was joining the pack and running up and down the beach. It was remarkable how quickly she accepted this as another safe place on her list. She would occasionally approach an owner, male or female, and then continue walking along the length of the beach with my husband or me. She didn’t seem to like the feel of the water on her paws but she was comfortable and enjoyed herself while we were there. The beach was now on the good list!

IMG_1037
Annie is on the left

7. In the kitchen with Annie

After the first month Annie was beginning to show less hesitation when called. She was spending more time out of her crate and was watching me more when I was in the kitchen, but she still wouldn’t come in and join me. For anyone who has had large dogs in their life I don’t need to explain the “Newfie Lunge”. My last 2 dogs were always in the kitchen and Bailey was a huge obstacle. Once she settled into what she thought would be the most strategic spot to catch anything dropping to the floor, I was forced to lunge over her every time I needed to move about. I would grumble that I would train my next dogs to watch me from the doorway so that I could move around more easily but of course I didn’t do that with Maisie and now that Annie would only watch me from the doorway, I wanted her in the kitchen, under foot like my other happy dogs.

Maisie is the fussiest eater we have ever had so we started mixing in 1-2 tablespoons of meat with her dry food. I make it in batches and freeze small portions in cubes so it is easy to add when needed. The first time I made a batch when Annie was around (baked chicken thighs ground up in the blender) I called her when I was dividing it into servings. I was making a mess and had chicken all over my hands. Maisie knows this is an opportunity for tasting and I didn’t want Annie to miss out. She slowly approached me and once I offered my hand she gently licked the chicken off of my fingers. Her expression was priceless, there was a quick spark of delight in her eyes and I could tell that she considered this new experience a really good one. She stayed close by while I ground up the next batch and was eager when I offered my hand to her the next time.

IMG_0968A couple weeks later, I was doing this again and when I turned on the blender I heard her get out of her crate, sneak around the perimeter of the house and saw her peering around the kitchen door way. She was getting it! She stayed there and watched my progress and then came right away when I called her to clean up my hand. On a different occasion I felt a nudge at my hip. I turned and expected to see Maisie but it was Annie looking up at me hoping to get a nibble. She remembered the blender noise and the reward that followed and I was so excited that she was gaining the confidence to come in and wait for a treat. Pretty soon she started venturing in when she heard knife-chopping noises and of course we always found something appropriate to give her as a reward. I haven’t had to lunge over her yet, but she is spending more time standing near by and sometimes will lay down in the doorway and wait there till something else comes her way. I look forward to the day that she flops down in the middle of the floor and becomes an obstacle!

6. Annie does the stairs!

I slept downstairs for the first two weeks. Annie was restless at night but she was starting to sleep better so when I went upstairs I was still listening for signs that she might need something. I really didn’t want to lock her crate, she was getting more comfortable in the house and I was sensitive to her feeling trapped in a cage. I’d hear her wandering around and she started to climb up the first 2 or 3 steps, then turn around and go back to her crate. It seemed like she wanted to be with us but when I tried to help her with the stairs during the daytime she completely resisted. I tried putting my hand on her back or side to encourage her, I gave her collar a little tug, I even put the lifting sling on her thinking maybe her legs weren’t strong enough for the full flight. None of these efforts on my part were enough to get her up the stairs so I just let her be.

One night around 2:00 in the morning I thought I heard her on the stairs and sure enough, there she was about ½ way up. I turned on the hall light so that she could see better but holy cow, she turned around and ran back to her crate. The spectacle of this large dog turning herself around on the stairs sent me into a panic but I was afraid if I moved toward her I would startle her even more and she would slip. Good grief, now what! Apparently she wanted to do this herself when no one was watching. The next day I purchased some clear stair grips to put on the treads so that she would have better traction and hoped that she would be brave enough to come all the way up on her next attempt. I left lights on at night so that she could see and then I waited and listened. For the next several nights I would hear her but I didn’t show myself hoping that she would make it on her own, but she’d just try the first 2 or 3 steps and then turn around and go back to her crate.

After about a week of this it sounded like she had finally made it to the top and I came out of my room so that she could find us. I came out too soon; she had 2 more steps to go. I gently called her name and crouched down to encourage her but when she saw me, she turned around and abandoned her mission. My heart was pounding as she was turning around, but she was very careful with her foot placement and she got herself safely back down. I wasn’t sure how much more either one of us could take!

The next day was my day off from work so I stayed in my room all day finding things to keep myself busy and hoping she would come and find me. Sure enough I heard her coming up but I stayed out of sight. When I finally peeked out, there she was standing at the top of stairs looking at me! She’d made it all the way up but apparently the stairs were only the first obstacle because now she looked down the hallway toward my room and decided to go back down and tag up in her crate. Over the next hour I heard her make 3 more trips to the top of the stairs until finally she made her way down the hall and stuck her head around the doorway to peer at me sitting on my bed. I didn’t dare move, but after a couple of seconds she walked up to me and pushed her head towards me for an ear rub. She did it! We stayed up there the rest of the afternoon and when my husband came through the front door that evening he was stunned to see all of us coming down the stairs to greet him. That night when we went up to bed she followed us right up, settled into her blanket and went to sleep and has been doing that every night since.

5. Tagging up at home base

Annie loved her crate. It was her safe place and she would go in there when she needed confidence and comfort. In the first few days she might venture out for a minute, but then return shortly after and settle back down into her bed. She would tuck her nose into the bumper and rub it around. I think she loved the feel of something soft on her face and this was probably her very first bed that was all her own. We didn’t close the door to her crate very often, she spent so much time in there, I wanted her to feel free to explore if and when she had the courage to do so.IMG_1217

We began calling her crate “home base”. When I called her, she would cock her head and consider what she should do. Eventually she would stand up, take a couple of steps out, but then return again to her crate. I’d give her some time, and then she’d try it again, coming out a little further and then return again to regroup. Watching her do this reminded me of my son when he played youth baseball. He’d lead off of the base with each pitch and then tag up again if the pitch was missed. Annie was “tagging up” at her base.

In the first couple of months it might take 5 or 6 tries to get her to come all the way around the house (she still refused to cut through the short hallway), whether it was to go out, eat a meal, leave the house for a walk, or try to get her into the yard so that we could then get into the car. At times it was frustrating but I was learning that she was willing to follow me, she just needed to take her time and some days required more time than others. Sometimes she would tremble in between tries, sometimes not. There was no predicting if she would come on the first attempt or the 9th.

When she began spending more time outside her crate, she would tag up if there was any sort of change. If someone came into the house, she would tag up before coming out to see who was here. If she heard one of us coming downstairs and she was outside her crate she would tag up. If she was coming around the perimeter of the house to get into the kitchen and one of us was standing in a place she wasn’t exptecting, she would get startled and turn around and tag up before she would try it again. She was gaining confidence, but she needed the comfort of her crate to give her an extra boost.

She was getting more comfortable with the leash so if we needed to go somewhere (usually the vet) and I was short on time I would give her 3 or 4 tries and then clip her on leash. Once on the leash she would follow me straight out the door. I wanted her to learn to come on her own so I didn’t do this often. After a couple of months I discovered that if I put her leash in my hand and stood outside her crate, she would follow me.   Once in the yard she might pause a few times when she saw me heading for the car and I would need to use the leash. This usually meant that she and I would do a few circles in the yard before she would let me clip her on the leash. Eventually she got to the point that she would come all the way through the yard and to the car without having to be leashed. This is when I knew we were finally gaining her trust. She felt safe with us and was beginning to overcome her fear of the unknown.

 

a shared life with our very large dogs

%d bloggers like this: