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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Towards a More Pettable Dog 
12th-Sep-2014 10:11 am
So we adopted Nicodemus in late December. Full story here, but the info you need is that he was a stray for some undeterminable amount of time and had all the puppy PTSD you'd expect. He bonded hard to me and Elayna, and very much wanted no part of anyone else; it took him about a month to get comfortable with Adam, even. And... he was not a pettable dog. Which was a sadness, because I wanted to snuggle him! He did curl up next to me from the very beginning - his natural position = pressed against my thigh, when I'm sitting on the couch. He'd just tense and snap if anyone tried to pet him. So we had to sit back and let him adjust, let him start feeling safe enough.

About a month ago, he finally started to ask for very brief pets - tiny whine, hopeful look, his paw tugging at my forearm. Still, one or two pets and he was visibly Done.

And then came last weekend's party.

Nick's progress has been measured in a bunch of way. His growing food security (he used to wolf down all available food instantly, not trusting that he'd get fed again; now he nibbles over the course of the day), his comfort with other people being in the house (oh man he was super defensive for the first few months! but now he settles down quickly, ceasing the barking in the first few minutes), and, as the party showed, his comfort with large numbers of people in his space.

The last time I had a bunch of people over, he was visibly tense, and I had to be vigilant lest someone try to pet him or pick him up.

This time?

He played with people through the entire party.

Guests realized that he loves it when you throw his Boba Fett for him! At one point he had a three-person game of fetch going on. Oh, and he actually plays fetch now - rather than getting toy-defensive and hunkering over Boba, snapping when you try to get it? As of Saturday, he brings Boba back to the person who threw it, drops it at their feet, and does not snap or charge when they pick it up.

This is all huge. PTSD pup feels safe, not just in normal household situations, but in loud parties with lots of people, many of them strangers. He played for hours. He snuggled and licked people he'd just met. It was amazing. <3

And that, I think, flipped a switch in him - because now he loves being petted. I first discovered this when I was putting his leash on and he clearly demanded headskritches. Nicky, who used to snap at being touched at all, is feeling safe enough to plop his throat down into my hand.

So many skritches this week. <3

I know eight months seems like a long time, but for stray/probably abused animals, it's really not. He's made huge progress in leaps and bounds, and continues to do so - he had his first dog park experience Sunday, too, and was safe and happy with a bunch of new dogs in a new environment!

So I just want to thank everyone who's been part of helping Nicky realize he's in a safe, stable, and loving place. People who were kind and patient with him during his first outing at Arisia right through people who played with him last weekend. Everyone who gave him time and space and told him he was a good boy. Thank you. It's working. <3
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12th-Sep-2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
Makes me so happy. <3
12th-Sep-2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
I love that Nicky has a toy Boba Fett! That is completely awesome!

I adopted a new dog in May, and people still don't quite get that she's not comfortable with other people and that it takes her a bit to let them pet her, and other dogs are right out. She's good with adults, but terribly afraid of other dogs and children, especially if they're high energy. Adoption from a shelter is a different kind of work with a pet than adoption of a puppy, but it is soooo worth it.
12th-Sep-2014 03:30 pm (UTC)
*nods* Whereas Nick has always loved kids, adjusts to women in a little while, and had a clear epic fear of men...

Yes. Work, and time-consuming, and utterly worth it.
12th-Sep-2014 04:44 pm (UTC)
Wow! 8 months is great progress. Coco lived with us for something like 7 years and never got over her food aggression/insecurity, separation anxiety, and only wanting petting on HER terms.

Bravo to you!!
12th-Sep-2014 05:10 pm (UTC) - Yay for doggie pets
So much fun!
12th-Sep-2014 05:11 pm (UTC) - Re: Yay for doggie pets
We need a puppy playdate!
12th-Sep-2014 05:32 pm (UTC) - Re: Yay for doggie pets
Quite so. Feel free to drop an email to myself and pygment to organize something.
12th-Sep-2014 05:44 pm (UTC)
There's a Somerville Dog Festival this Sunday. I don't know if this is something you and Nic would enjoy, or not.
12th-Sep-2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
12th-Sep-2014 08:53 pm (UTC)

Andy mentioned that he was petting Nick at your party and I was really confused...I'm so glad he's getting snuggly :)
12th-Sep-2014 08:55 pm (UTC)
Progress was slow, slow, slow, then SUPERFAST!
12th-Sep-2014 09:53 pm (UTC)
Awesome. Good to hear.
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