Once again, I am resurfacing. School is winding down and while I am still doing next to nothing textile-wise, there is one small thing happening in my life that's worth sharing. Meet Tipper.
Tipper is a Border Collie/Aussie/or whatever mix pup that I'm fostering for the summer. I didn't plan on take in a dog; my lifestyle isn't the greatest for that, but I've got time this summer and I fell in love with this little girl. I can normally snuggle and scratch animals at adoption events and walk away saying "Sorry, it just wouldn't be fair to the dog..." But I kept thinking about Tipper. And I've got a bunch of free time this summer, for various reasons involving complicated DoD rules about the job I'm going to next. Suffice it to say, I've managed to sign up to run a month-long circus school through Zip Zap Circus USA and Higher Achievement, coordinate a bathroom renovation, and I'll still have time on my hands.
I'm sharing because I'm hoping to get advice from time to time, and because I wish there were someone out there I could find who had more to offer than the standard advice on dealing with anxious dogs. Tipper was saved from a high kill shelter in North Carolina, so she's a country dog relocated to the big city. She lived for a while with the head of Rural Dog Rescue, but her place is usually reserved for dogs with medical issues, so she went to live at a doggie day care that is good enough to house a bunch of rescue pups. Still, she had serious separation anxiety at her first foster home, and you really can't deal with that at a day care facility that's manned 24/7, so she needed to find a new home, foster or otherwise.
Our first walks, while I was waiting for approval, showed some other anxieties, too. If you were a country dog who was surrendered to a shelter, picked up by a stranger, and lived in multiple places over the course of the last several months, you'd be freaked out by trucks and buses, too. Don't even mention the ladder truck that flew past us with sirens wailing. Complete shut down. Crouched on the ground, refusing to move or even look up shut down.
She's been with me for a week now and I think she's making some real improvements. To begin with, we had to sort out schedules - if she's not out of the house by 6am, I'm cleaning up a mess on one of my expensive oriental rugs. No problem, I can work with that. And the noise issue is solved by my quiet neighborhood - we've slowly worked from my quiet cul-de-sac to the bigger streets and she slows down when the big vehicles go past, but that's about it. She's not a runner. I was hoping she'd be a running partner like my mom's BCs have been in the past, but Tipper doesn't have a high gear. I'll keeping working on it with her, but even if she never gets past a moderate trot, it will be better than she was before.
Separation is a harder thing to deal with though. I'd been warned that she hates crates and that she can be destructive when left alone outside a crate. That poses a bit of a problem, even though the day care facility has been kind enough to offer free day care and boarding. Still, there are times when it's too hard to bring her to day care all the time, so we've been working on that. She's been put on anxiety meds since arriving at the day care, which I think has helped her a bit, as has living with my Harvest (he goes by Harvey).
She's low energy and since she doesn't chase him around, he's been growing more and more interested in her. It's too quick for me to get pictures, but several times in the last few days, they've gone nose to nose checking each other out calmly. And as you can see, they can hang out close to each other with no problems. I feed her in her crate and him right next to her, and I've found him on the floor near her each time I've left Tipper crated. So far, so good...the blanket is usually intact, which tells me there hasn't been a full-on freak out yet.
Leaving her alone uncrated is probably going to be more of a challenge. I've left her a few times to run downstairs and put trash out, or to just show her that me leaving isn't awful (per the standard direction on dealing with separation anxiety). That seems to go okay. Today I left her for longer while I ran to the grocery store, which is about three blocks away (I love city living!) and came back to nearly no problems. She wasn't frantic when I came back, but she had urinated on the rug again. So, we're back to shorter periods and maybe a walk outside before I leave her anywhere, which I was doing when I left her crated, even if it was just for half an hour.
The last things I'm dealing with are small and will just be details that make her a better pet. First, she has no idea how to play and flinches if I so much as roll a ball past her. She does watch Harvey and I play, but has no interest when I offer to play with her. She loves walks and scratches, just has no idea how to play. And finally, she dens up in my bedroom, where her dog bed is, and stays there most of the time we're home. She comes running when she hears me with food or if I call her to go for a walk, but nothing can convince her to hang out downstairs for any length of time. I think that will solve itself. She's a sweet girl and deserves a chance to have a real family that doesn't work the silly hours I'll be working when I return to the Pentagon.