Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pen and Me

At late middle age, I have grown into a good enough self-awareness that decisions tend to come out as expected for me, and I'm reasonably good at them.  Going into the process of looking for a dog, it was a relative no-brainer to seek a calm dog, a mature dog, one who could be alone for my long workdays, one I would not fail because I tend not to be around as much as would be idea for training and dealing with separation anxiety.

Of course, then there was Penelope, and that was it for that.  So my commitment has changed, the demands much increased, and the frustrations too - on both sides.  But this smart little girl is teaching me a lot.

We have our setbacks - but those are more on my side than hers.  We both feel bad about it.  But it's early days yet - not even two months.  And she is too smart.

One of the trickier commands for a dog is to transform "sit" into "down" and then into "stay".  We've been working on this this week, and she is so promising.  It's interesting how changing the location of our training changes her results; when we're in that area of the kitchen next to the fridge and the back door, she's very good - but when we go into the living room, into her and Gossy's room, into the dining room, she's more easily distracted by curious Goss, trailing us and watching from the margins.  Outdoors, however (and oh so promisingly) she was amazingly good.  So a good lesson for me:  vary the training!  Its time of day, its place. Make sure she knows these words aren't ritual attached to a single place, a limited time.

It's so exciting for us both when she does well, too.  The sense is not so much "I got you to bend to my will" as it is "we communicated!" and that is gratifying from both sides.

The one issue we can't seem to surmount right now is that she still eliminates in her cage (or "crate" if you simply must).  This of course means she may be eating some solids - though I have a sense it's more the liquid variety ... admittedly, this may be vanity/hope on my biased part - and definitely is marinating in her leavings.  So I've removed the blanket and my tee shirt (you're supposed to leave something that "smells like you" in the cage), which cannot be comfortable for her, and absolutely breaks my heart.  Ten hours or so in a metal box, with a couple of toys, in a cool house, and loaded with energy - never mind anxiety because she's alone but for when (theoretically) Gossamer comes to peer at her.  What a tease.

How to get her to stop peeing in there.  There isn't really any command for "don't pee" is the thing.  She has learned appropriate elimination not by prohibition but by allowance - praise and rewards for going outside, extreme alacrity from me in responding to indications she needs to go outside.  But prevention?  Everyone says "they don't pee where they eat and/or sleep" - well, I tried putting her food in there and the result was unappetizing.  As for sleeping, I can hardly make her do that on my schedule - and most likely she does, but has overcome this instinctive avoidance.  Certianly, she does NOT eliminate in the bedroom she is allowed to share (in her own bed - but with absolutely scrupulous behavior, without any training on this point at all).

So I don't really know what to do.  Leaving a pee pad in there only meant finding a pureed (unused) puppy pad a the end of the day.

This is really the final frontier for the two of us.  Though she's certainly got a ways to go on "down" and "stay" we're clearly on the path; this route, though, I can't seem to find on the map.

Over this very long holiday weekend (though I work my Friday half day, it will be from home), the plan is to disinfect the cage (again ...) and put a cushion from the bed she has downstairs inside.  She doesn't use the bed much, but IS aware it is the only furniture she is allowed to get on - that it is "hers".  It's a nice big, thick chair cushion, and smells of Siddy and of herself, but without elimination smells.  If she can't behave with it, it won't be a very bad loss, but if she can ... happiness for us both.  If nothing else, if she does mess on it, it will be less of a floppy pile to manage than the blanket and my tee shirt were, when she peed on those.  I am prepared to trash it if need be, but do HOPE that would not be the end result of this effort.


Penny is not the dog I meant to get.  I may not be the "people" she really deserves.  But the commitment to try, to be as good for her as I can be, is there, and grows stronger every day.

She had another bath yesterday so she'll be sweet for Thanksgiving day (she was unliveable last night, before we did the deed).  Today, she's getting good attention - AND she is out of both collar and harness, too (she prefers to be naked, and I like an unadorned dog myself; though, for the record, her tags are on that new harness of hers, so WILL be with her when she goes outside).  She's just plopped up against my ankle, warm and solid and so contented you can see it in her body.

If there's anything better than knowing you have contented a living creature like that, I can't quite imagine what it is ...

Off for now, to tidy up and putter, figuring out what needs to be done for tomorrow.

And to stop here and there to admire my girl.  And nuzzle the boy, too - who is the best kitten in the whole world.

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