Paw prints in the Sand

image: pawprintsnetwork

image: pawprintsnetwork

I have so many wonderful memories and heart-warming moments from the time I spend interacting with dogs at the shelter. I want to be able look back at these one day, perhaps when age begins to challenge past reflections. Here I hope to keep these little joys timeless and possibly a comforting presence, like a familiar friend, in my elderly days.

July 22, 2015 – Seeing progress
Toy, a nondescript brown chihuahua, is one of four in a kennel, each with varying personalities but all eager to take the treat from my fingers. As they tumbled over each other to get at the treat that I could only hand out one piece at a time, I decided to try a little experiment. I started giving the treats to the dogs in a fixed order, disregarding who was more successful at pushing to the front. ‘One… two… three… four… One… two… three… four…’ and so on. By the third cycle, they got the idea. Four little bodies, each a different colour and lengths of fur, pressed close against each other, placed their little butts on the ground. They followed my finger as I went from one to another, always in the same order, only reaching up their noses to the fence when it was their turn. No more pushing, like well-behaved children. I’d watched videos of handlers doling out food to several dogs while all sat patiently for their turns, and marvelled at the amount of training I believe must have gone into that. Yet here we were, after 5 minutes of patience, everyone got the idea of this game! Perhaps there’s hope for me yet.
But I digress. I was there to take Toy out. Toy is a shy, uncertain boy, 2 years or so. Initially reluctant to even walk outside, straining to get back to his kennel, he let me pick him up and we went to the GAR. Once on the floor, he stood uncertainly and still, trembling slightly, tail tucked, back hunched up. I slowly sat on the floor and stretched out. Letting him take his time, he sniffed around me; up one side, down the other, then stood still. Still slowly, I let him sniff my hand and started stroking down his back, working up to butt and side scratches. As he started to relax, I withdrew my hand. Toy looked up at me, and I knew he was getting comfortable with the hand. More stroking and scratching, then he placed 2 tiny paws on my thigh, and look up at me. I smiled and praised and tapped my thighs to encourage him to step up. He slowly, albeit tentatively settled onto my lap. More stroking. Eventually he stepped off and he walked around the room once, checking out all the corners. Then came back onto the lap, as if feeling that was enough adventure for the moment and seeking out the safe space. More stroking, and another trip round the room, this time also checking out the cupboards and hand-sanitizer up above, even standing up on his hind-legs to check out barking from nearby; all the while with becoming visibly more relaxed and tail coming up. This went on a few more times. It was like watching confidence bloom in a creature!


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