27 December 2012

Meet Arni

Arni is not a new guy as he's been with New Rattitude for quite a while. Mr. Arni is a unique little dude with a sad history. He has a lot of fears and is generally anxious, but he has learned over time that it's okay to relax a bit here and there. He's a really short Teddy Roosevelt Terrier and barely eleven pounds -- a tiny guy in a big world that's often scary to him. It's easy to feel compassion for a frightened little dog, but what makes Arni challenging is that his way of dealing with his fear is to go on the offense.

Arni has clearly had his growl "punished out of him" by others. This means that now humans don't get the welcome warning of a growl when he's scared and needs for us to back off. He goes straight to the bite in his own defense because he's learned that's the only thing that will successfully give him needed space. This means that when we go out, I must vigilantly maintain his safety bubble so that no one risks getting bitten. No matter how much strangers want to pet the cute little dog, he'd rather they didn't. This also means that I must pay very close attention to all of his subtle body language so that I don't get bitten when he perceives a threat. So many things in the world are threatening to Arni: a look, a gesture, a tone of voice, a movement, proximity of dogs or humans, certain noises. We humans would understand this better and faster if he trembled behind a chair, but Arni plays too-tough instead, rushing and tackling scary things to make them go away. 

Arni and I have done a lot of work together and we've come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Someone interested in Arni as a canine companion would be someone willing to continue this work. Someone smarter than I who can take a lesson from my hardheadedness and do this work with no expectations. Someone who understands that a scared little guy whose brain didn't get a chance to develop normally will need a light touch, an open heart, and the freedom to make his own choices.

I'm a dog trainer and "rescue rehabber" of a number of years. I used to think that all behavior could be molded to conform to human desire with a logical plan, with enough hard work. Arni has humbled the hell out of me. What I think now is that Arni is just Arni. He doesn't need to be fixed. He needs to be helped to feel more comfortable. He isn't going to be "normal." He's just going to be Arni, an impossibly cute, weird, funny, at times happy, sweetly affectionate, morning guy who needs to be allowed to be himself. 

I realize that Arni's true nature is appealing to about .0001% of potential adopters. That's okay. He and I are the stutter-stepper team (two steps forward, one step back) and we'll keep at it while he grows into a wider comfort zone. One day his new people will find him and decide that the real Arni is the one for them.

18 December 2012

Geni Meets Spike

Geni's first meeting with the cat of the house went very well. She was highly curious, but not overly excited. Spike is dog-savvy and can handle herself with one dog at a time. According to Spike, Geni needs to be a bit more calm before they can interact face-to-face, but she gets a paws-up for a fairly controlled first meeting. I called Geni away many times to be paid treats for attention. She was able to focus on me, even when Spike was in motion.

Spike is a brat and likes to get in a good session of dog-teasing whenever possible. So foster mom is tasked with looking out for both cat and dog when Spike gets cocky. Which I expect will take place at the second meeting. 

16 December 2012

Meet Genesis

Genesis has been around and now she is one of my foster dogs. She was rescued from a shelter earlier this year and fostered by a very special New Rattitude volunteer who brought her through an illness when she wasn't expected to recover. You can see some of Geni's photos and videos from that time here.

She bounced back to health, stopped having seizure-like episodes and soon was adopted by a family who took excellent care of her. They continued to take excellent care of her when the episodes returned and dedicated themselves to tracking down the cause. An MRI showed that Genesis has a dilated fourth ventricle in her cerebellum where cerebrospinal fluid builds up, causing episodes involving tremors and loss of muscular coordination. She was put on medication which greatly reduced the occurrence of these episodes by decreasing spinal fluid production. Eventually, Genesis came back to New Rattitude due to behavior issues.

Miss Geni is not yet available for adoption, but I feel that she will be soon. She's been with me for two weeks and I'm still getting to know her. She and I are working on her house training, impulsivity, and other issues and she's coming along as expected. Today was her first day off the medication, as the vet wants to give her body a rest from it. We will see how she does.

Now that I've told you the issues this girl is dealing with, I'll tell you that her personality is absolutely delightful. She's an affectionate little doll who likes to play and then curl up sweetly in your lap. She's goofy and rascally one minute and soft and sedate the next. She's just as lovable as she can be. And stinkin' cute, too!