16 February, 2008

Bark Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Shhh... don't tell Maggie, but we're moving soon.

Although we closed on The Box House in December, we've been doing a lot of work on the place, including sanding and refinishing the floors, and it made more sense to stay at my Mom's other house while this was being done and only sleep at The Box House a few nights a week. The dust from the sanding and the fumes from the floor products were terrible. But now we're finally moving in.

This is Mom with her beagle/shepherd mix, Maggie, whom she adopted last summer from Almost Home Foundation. Maggie was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Southern Illinois.

This is Maggie with her favorite toy, The Stick. She can run across the yard with it at top speed, and hardly ever trips herself up.

I'm sure Maggie must wonder where Ted and I disappear to, why we will be gone for days on end and come back smelling like wood dust or other home-improvement type smells. But she never questions us, and always seems deliriously happy to have us back.

We're moving over the last of our things to The Box House, and soon it will be time to bring Maggie over permanently. But we worry about her. She had such a difficult first few months of life. Although we'll probably never know for sure what was done to her, she does have a few permanent scars on her head and legs, so we're pretty sure she was beaten. She's very, very, nervous getting into the car, to the point of panic, sometimes. She'll often brace all four legs, or drop to the ground in a sort of sixties passive resistance sort of way. And once we get her into the car, she cries and shakes the entire time. It breaks my heart. She doesn't do well with unfamiliar places, either.

So we decided to break her into the move slowly, and start to bring her back and forth with us. To ease the transition, we got a tranquilizer from the vet. An hour before we left, we gave it to her with a piece of buttered bread. It made her pretty dopey, and very malleable. It was easy to get her into the van. We brought her dog bed along so she's have something familiar, and she managed to curl up in it and relax somewhat.

Until we got there.

Oh boy, she did not want to go into the house. She braced her legs and looked at us, wide-eyed. I wish I knew what was going through her head, what memory it triggered or what she thought was happening. I took Maggie for a walk around the block, hoping to relax her, and then had to pick her up--all forty-two pounds of her--and carry her in. Once she saw that we were all there with her, that there was nothing to be afraid of, she relaxed a bit and began to explore. But like a toddler, she had to run back to us to make sure we weren't going to go anywhere.

We stayed for most of the day, and eventually she was able to relax enough to sleep in her dog bed. I think she'll be okay when we make the final move later this week.


Anonymous said...

When you started to comment on her fear of the new house, I wondered if she thought that you were going to leave her there. Not that she hated the house specifically, but that she hated that you might abandon her with someone else.

Our old dog and cat were terrified of the new house at first. The dog warmed up to it once we had some area rugs (she hated slippery wood floors) and our furniture was in the house (it was familiar to her). The cat always hated the house but I think that had more to do with the fact that neighborhood cats would taunt him through the windows.

Perhaps when your belongings are in the house, she will love it. You might try feeding her there when she visits or at least giving her some treats and positive reinforcement when she visits so she begins to associate time in the house with happy dog things.

Joanne said...

Thanks for your comments. We did bring her food and treats over with us the first time, and she managed to eat. She even went off exploring on her own a wee bit, but kept sticking her head around the corner to check what we were up to. We're taking her over again today, along with her bed and toys, and more of our "stuff". I think she'll be fine when we truly settle in.

I just wish I could get her to at least tolerate car trips and not be so scared each time. Evanston has both a dog beach and a dog park, but they're not really close to our house and I will have to drive her over.

Jennifer said...

Cute puppy... my 30 lb dog does that with huge sticks, too. Or, at least used to until we got another dog who makes it his mission to chew every stick he sees into 1/2 inch pieces.

Get some Bach's Rescue Remedy and some Lavendar essence. Drop some in her water bowl, some on her bed, and rub a drop or two on her muzzle. It really helps.

Oh, and leave lots of dirty clothes around for a while, to give her a sense of your smell in the house.

For the car... try just hanging out in the car with lots of treats. DOn't even drive it. If you have a garage, leave the doors open with food and treats in it, and let her just "be" in the garage (closed) with the car, choosing to go in and out. Then progress to turning the car on, but not moving.

Then, have one person drive the car a few blocks away. Walk her to the car, then get in with her, and drive home.

Is she better if she is in a crate in the car, btw? That might be an option if she is.

If it's pukey problems, ginger cookies help mine. :)

Marilyn said...

Maggie is sweet!

I'm with Jennifer on the Rescue Remedy. Also, some dogs do enjoy the "safety" of a pop-up soft crate in the car, especially stuffed with your t-shirts and their toys. Good luck with her - it will take a little doing, and then she'll be fine.

We love our shelter girl the same way - all the care that they require is more than worth the unabashed devotion they give.

Joanne said...

Maggie did much, much better on the most recent visit to The Box House. I had to pick her up and put her in the car as usual, but she curled up in her dog bed, used an extra sweater of mine as a pillow, and was like that for most of the trip. When we got to the house, she remembered where she was and went straight in with no fuss, and had a blast this time checking things out and exploring on her own. We had to keep looking for her, and she'd poke her head around the corner when we called, a big cheesy grin on her face.

We took a walk ever few hours, and she was so excited with all the new sights and smells that she wouldn't do her own business.

It was still tough getting her back into the car for the return trip. She rolled onto her back and gave us big, sad, puppy eyes. But once I picked her up and put her in her bed, she was fine and curled up again. Little steps, I guess.

Jennifer--I'll look into the Rescue Remedy and particularly the lavender, the lavender helps with my headaches, I imagine it would relax Maggie, too.

Marilyn--All of our critters have been rescued, and each has had their unique quirks and anxieties. But you're right, nothing beats the love they share. Few things are better than coming home to a big doggy hello.

Nadja and Sean said...

Hannah (also rescued at about 6 months old) had a terrible time with cars when I first got her. She got so nervous she frothed (the vet said it was a sign of nervous naseau), shook, and occasionally threw up. We did the "treats-in the-car-not-moving" and gradually worked her up to driving, and now she LOVES car rides. It took about 6 months of working with her, a lot of treats, and ONLY doing fun things and going fun places in the car, but it worked!

Joanne said...

Nadja and Sean--

I'll try to do the fun-thing-in-the-car-only route. Maggie has already made such progress since my mom's had her, it's hard to believe she's the same dog.

She used to be afraid of men, too, and would go belly up to anything that looked at her, even the cat. Now she and my fiance are the best of buddies, which is good to see.

Jen said...

Puppy, our dog who found us, just hated our house for a long time, I would bring him over, while we worked, but was alway under foot. Once all of our stuff was here, he was fine. I guess he didn't think we were going anywhere at that point. But when we drive by the old place, he knows where he is and does a little whimper. I guess he forgot to move some bones he buried.