I brought Sophie home almost 6 months ago, and so I’ve been reflecting mainly on two things this week. Twenty-five years ago I would have returned Sophie to her foster mom sometime during the first 2 weeks, and secondly, how amazed, proud and filled with joy I am to see how much she has blossomed and changed.
I never expected Sophie to turn my bed into a giant wee wee pad. I know that before I learned how deeply animals feel, and before I learned be a responsible guardian, I would have given her up. Making my bed a pit stop would have definitely been a deal breaker years ago. But, not only do I get to see how much she has learned and changed now, I get to feel the joy from it, and I get to see how much I have learned and changed too. I compare this to my coined phrase and motivational tip “The Other Rewards”. Years ago I wrote about how great I felt when my small jeans fit after I lost weight, but the other rewards I felt came from the pride of small successes on the way. I feel great to see Sophie acting happy like a puppy, but I feel rewarded that as a guardian, my commitment paid off. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, but the joy I feel now everyday watching her was well worth it.
I didn’t stop trying different things aside from tin foil on the bed to covering my floor for a while with half a dozen wee wee pads to also limiting the space she had early mornings until she did go to the bathroom (Can’t get into all the details, it would take up your whole day). The day I snuck a peak to catch her right in the act on one of the wee wee pads, was the day we headed down the right track. I stuck my head out from around the corner, and in a high pitched excited happy voice yelled out “good girl” over and over and over while jumping for joy. She came running toward me tail wagging and while of course we still had mistakes for the next few months, she began and still runs tail wagging to find me immediately after a pee pee stop looking for praise.
I used the same method over and over whenever she would do something positive, including when she would stop to smell some other doggie’s pee pee outside, to more recently my jumping for joy like a crazy girl when she finally did her business outside (I’m sure someone watching me thought I was hilarious). I focused and rewarded her on the positive behaviors, while ignoring or distracting away from the negative behaviors.
Going to the bathroom on the appropriate spot at home and going outside were far from the only issues Sophie and I needed to work on. Sophie, the 5- pound little Poodle barked at almost every dog we encountered, and even once she lunged at my neighbor’s giant Newfoundland. While this incident was kind of funny, I didn’t want her to bark at every doggie we would encounter on our walks. I especially didn’t want her to spend her life having fear, which I surmise is much of the reason for her barking at other dogs. Her fears ranged from people to me saying no even though I didn’t say it harshly or in anger. She slightly cowered once when I said no and I knew that my little Sophie and I would overcome her fears slowly but surely, determined that I would never have my best friend cower again. To witness any dog regardless of size cower hurts me to see, but to me it also takes away the dignity and humanity we humans are supposed to have.
A boyfriend gave me the book “For the Love of a Dog” by Patricia McConnell PH.D, several years ago, which I dug it out when I brought Sophie home. I learned so much about reconditioning our best friends, or reeducating as I call it, which I have now come to prefer over training (Okay, I view training as a dominatistic stance versus teaching as we teach our children). I highly recommend this book whether we want to overcome fear, fear aggression, or aggression in our dogs, or any other behavior they show while understanding their emotions. One of the biggest reasons I learned that people bring their adopted dogs back to shelters is due to behavioral issues, so I think we can use a lot of help ourselves.
Is Sophie perfect now? No, of course not and nor do I expect or want her to be as maybe I once did, but we are well on our way, and I am filled with joy from all the rewards far beyond what I expected when I adopted her.
Next: Some statistics on us Americans and Our Companion Animals (And a little more of course about me and Sophie!).
Adopt and save a life!