**There are two important notes at the end of this post, I hope you will read them:)
UP and at ’em
Sheba has been with us for 20 months now and, according to her records, was six years old on June 25th. I can finally see a discernable routine in our days. You might think after 20 months, it’s about time; but with her background (See Introducing Sheba and Life with a Tentative Dog) patience has been key.
We struggled with housebreaking for eight long months and finally realized that she needed to be walked. Three times a day. We are fortunate to live near a school that many people in the community use for a dog walking park, so much so that our borough has installed dog waste stations at two places along the journey and provide free waste bags.
She is the first dog we ever had that we could not simply put on a tie out rope outside so she could “do her business” and then scratch on the door to come back. She will lay on the grass outside for hours if my husband is working there or if we are both in the yard, but she still will not “go there.” It seems to be holy ground.
But finally, walking her three times day around the school yard and other places has reduced the number of accidents. In fact, thankfully, it has been several months since she has confused the living room carpet with the grass at the school.
Her sort of schedule
Part of the success of this new routine is getting up right away, for me that is 7:30 a.m. retirement standard time, and then grabbing her treats, bag and leash and getting out of the house before she has time to think about it. I am not at my best during that first walk, but there is no time for coffee if I want to keep the house smelling nice. She seems willing enough to come home without dallying, once she has found the absolutely perfect repository and has sniffed enough blades of grass, and other things.
Yet, as soon as we come in the door, she seems to think her breakfast should come before my coffee and depending on my state, I will oblige her. Then, while I am wishing I could go back to sleep, she has curled up into a ball and gone back to dream land, while I make coffee, forage some breakfast and try to not noticeably stagger around the kitchen.
When I was in seminary and living in a dorm in my early 50’s I used to joke that I wore bangs to cover up the tattoo on my forehead that said “Not a morning person.” But I wasn’t fooling anyone.
Treats and Food
Sheba gets a Denta Stick at noon, or as close to noon as we remember, and seems to be ready for a walk soon after she inhales her treat. Supper is at 5, more or less and she gets a rawhide at 7:30 p.m. She gets her last walk of the day after supper and that seems to be enough to get through the night.
Like many pets, she seems to see herself as a priority and thinks she can tell time. Sometimes she is right on the money, and sometimes it is wishful thinking on her part.
She can be pushy, especially when it comes to wanting her treats; but I can be stubborn. Although I have teased my husband for years that the correct pronunciation of his last name is “Stubbornville” truth be told, I am a bit stubborn too. When she follows me into the office after her post supper walk and starts pushing my hands away from my keyboard, I will not be moved and tell her to lay down. That might net me a glare.
Sort of schedule?
I admit that this sort of schedule is my fault. Perhaps something more regular would be better, but I am not that rigid, nor do I care to be so, but it all seems to fit in and suit.
I talk to the animals
Well, one at a time. When I walk Sheba, I talk to her. I feel like, despite her sense of duty and distraction, this is some good one on one time for us. I praise her of course for doing those good things, but I also just talk with her. I know she ignores me, but I hope that the sound of my voice does something positive. I tell her that we are lucky to have her. Then I say, “who am I kidding? You are lucky to have us.” Both are right, I hope. When she seems anxious, a sudden noise, or the onset of another human being, can be enough to distract her from any productivity, I remind her that I will not let anyone hurt her. I also tell her frequently, that she is a good girl and I am proud of her.
I have seen people walking their dogs with a leash in one hand and a cell phone in the other, and that is their choice and right, certainly. But as much time as I spend on the phone, texting or social media, I feel like this time of walking Sheba belongs to her.
Fear and wariness continues
I took Sheba to the Vet’s office for a technician visit. While we waited, and there was not much going on in the office, she backed up, partly under the chair next to me and shook. Now, I realize no smart animal likes going to the vet, indignities of all sorts can and do happen there. But she shows that type of fear, when the neighbor dogs bark. She has learned to lead me out of the way, in order to avoid walking in front of the offending dogs’ house. She will pull me to the back yard and around the side of our house, rather than walk in front of theirs.
She has the same general reaction to men, boys and children and when the football team starts to practice and suit up across the street at the school, walking Sheba will be a little more challenging, though not impossible. It simply makes me sad.
In twenty months, I have only heard her bark twice at most. She does bark gently in her sleep, but all the neighbor dogs who bark, she will not bark back. I admit I am grateful, but when I mentioned this to the receptionist at the vet’s office the other week, she said, “you don’t know what her previous owners did to make her that way.” And it makes me wonder as well, though those are answers we will never have. How much fear or pain has to be instilled in an animal to make it stifle instinct?
Unlike human toddlers and babies who quickly warm up to having their pictures taken, even to the point of posing, Sheba will not cooperate. But I have taken a few candid shots for this post. I wish I could show you a video of her running around the house or jumping up half in the air, seeming to have springs on her front paws, bouncing up and down when I come home from being away, or when my husband or I say those magical words, “Sheba, do you want to go for a walk?” Or pictures of her stretching out her long, lean body as she puts her front paws on the porch railing to crane her neck at the latest sound to catch her attention. But those shots or videos could never happen if she saw the camera or the phone, as you will see.
Because, as far as we know, Sheba lived her first four-and-a-half years in a crate, we are grateful that she willingly gets in her crate, when we are going out or when it is time for bed. There are sometimes she tries to pretend she is invisible or deaf, especially during the day, but usually she will go right in. Sometimes she goes in without being told because she “reads” the signs, car keys in hand, jacket grabbed of the back of the chair, etc.
When it is bedtime she still races ahead of me and turns around on the landing to look at me and to make sure that I am following. If the doors to our room and her crate are open, she generally goes right in, even before I get to the room. I pet her and tell her that she is a good girl. I put my hand under her chin, because she seems to like that, and I tell her that I love her and close the crate.
I have written posts about all of our dogs, but since Sheba is the current pet, it is easier to recall the myriad things she does. There are times when missing Misty, our beagle who died October 27, 2018, just sweeps over me and catches me off guard. Then I think when the time comes to say goodbye to Sheba (hopefully many years from now) it will be the hardest. Because of all four of our rescue dogs, Sheba is the one that is most mine and has stolen my heart.
Granted, I have used a lot of anthropomorphic language in telling this story (language that ascribes human characteristics or tendencies to non human entities), but in my defense, Sheba is only human after all.
Not holding back the tide,
Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com
A celebration: This is the 50th post in The Beach Girl Chronicles, I will keep writing, I hope you will keep reading and sharing! Thank you for following this site, or reading on Linked In or my Facebook Page, Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles.
A BIG Thank you to Sue and Leanne who have hosted the Mid-Life Share the Love Link Party (#MLSTL) and are ending that party with this weeks contributions. Thank you for the welcome you have extended to me as a new blogger, and for your encouraging words. I have made many wonderful connections with other bloggers through this link party and am grateful to you both. Wishing you both success and joy as you branch out in other areas. Michele