May 22 2020

Day 67: Bessie

Published by at 6:37 pm under Coronavirus Journal

As I expected, having this young dog is like having a new baby in the house. I feel like a car whose engine is being held at a high rev. No nice, low idle. Every second, even in the wee hours, I have to be vigilant. We saw what happened last night in the literally ten seconds I spaced out, when the dog used my rug as a pee spot. I wish I could crate her, but she’s still too traumatized for that. I’ve been trying to take the trash out all day, but she attempts to escape out the door with me.

The big difference between a new dog and a new baby is that one won’t bite you if unhappy. I’m always cautious of a pup I don’t know, and who doesn’t know me. I’ve been testing her with food- and toy-aggression. She’s wary of me and gives me the eye when I take her toy or pat her when she eats, but she hasn’t growled. She really didn’t want to give up the bone I gave her. But she did.

She also doesn’t want to do what she doesn’t want to do, and thus, won’t. For example, she just lay in the hot sun on my back deck for 15 or so minutes. She wouldn’t look up or respond when I came out. And boy did she resist coming back into the house when I thought she’d been out there long enough. Very headstrong. I hope that changes when she gets to know me. In the meantime, without all these doggy treats, I would be powerless.

The other time I spaced out yesterday was while making dinner. I turned on the stove, went back to watch the dog, and forgot the food until I smelled the burning pot. I usually use a timer. Now I need one more than ever. I’m so distracted and scatterbrained. I keep misplacing the leash.

I’ve decided on a name. It’s Bessie, which, as you remember, was my sister’s idea. I’ve ordered the ID tags.

We made it through last night without any dog accidents or midnight trips into the yard, thank goodness. I’m hoping this is a trend. Starting around 3:00 a.m. I wanted to use the bathroom but was afraid of waking the baby. At least babies have diapers and don’t have to be taken outside for their duties.

Finally at 5:45 I could wait no longer. As I returned to my bed I heard the slow thump of a tail. The baby was awake. I took her down the back steps but she is still terrified of going up so, in my bathrobe, I walked her to the front again. It was a bit of a drag at that hour, but would be more so at 2:00 in the morning. Which might happen.

But then later this morning, with a fistful of treats I slowly lured her up the back stairs to the porch. Up one step. Pause with a nervous glance over the shoulder at safe ground. Up two. Partial turnaround to retreat, but then a pause, and up two more. She finally made it all the way to the top, with me bellowing my approbation. Luckily she’s food-motivated. Two subsequent attempts also succeeded. A third almost failed but she finally and reluctantly acquiesced to my wishes, and ate my treats every few steps up. I think I’m going to use the front stairs for the rest of the day and give her a little break.

I’ve discovered another issue she has. She’s a digger. Whenever I take her to the backyard, she starts pawing in the dirt with gusto. I keep stopping her and trying to redirect her but she goes right back. Once I said No abruptly but not loudly, and that made her recoil. She’s traumatized and very sensitive. I looked online for solutions to the digging but really didn’t find anything helpful. The advice suggests you identify the reasons for the behavior, like boredom or prey drive. I think it’s the latter for her, cuz it really seems she’s after something, and it seems to me on our walks that her prey drive is strong. She eyes cats and squirrels with frightening intensity. Not that I’m worried for the squirrels. Anyway, to prevent the digging problem I’m supposed to get rid of the bugs or rodents she’s trying to unearth. Now, how do you get rid of burrowing insects, for Heaven’s sake? I could try to set up an area where she is allowed to dig, but if she’s chasing after creatures, that won’t help.

She also doesn’t listen to me at all when I try to get her attention. Some dogs are more keyed into humans than others. Again, I know it will take some time for her to get used to me, and then she will require training. And it’s taking me time to get used to her. I’m evaluating her as carefully as I can. I would hate to take her back, but if the fit isn’t right, it’s not good for anyone. I was spoiled by Otis who arrived at six months old, untrained but with excellent manners. They’re totally different dogs so I’m not comparing personalities, but the bevy of extra behavioral challenges is, well, challenging.

Bessie has yellow eyes

Cheryl says, She just needs a chance. And I will give her that, with all the love I can muster.

My computer keyboard is already covered with dog hair.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Day 67: Bessie”

  1. Ma says:

    I know we’re all behind you on this trial. She may be stubborn, but she’s not aggressive, which is great. Time — and gentle corrections — will help. She doesn’t know you, either!

  2. Molly says:

    That’s encouraging that she’s not showing aggression re: food/toys so far, even when she clearly disapproves!

    How long was she with the foster mom? Maybe that will give you a good benchmark for when she’ll start to creep back out of her shell at your house too.

    Look at her little one-ear droop in the last photo. Such a cutie.

  3. Ginna says:

    Eleni, with her dog experience, seemed at first concerned that Bessie sort of froze when I took her bone. I’ll keep working with her and see what happens. It’s not my favorite thing to test for aggression!

    Ma: Yes, we need to get a little more used to each other.

    Molly: She was with one foster mom for a couple or three days, and another one for five days.

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