The last three months with Sophie have been kind of a whirlwind! When I think back to the first night & few weeks with her, she has made major strides but I know she still has a long way to go. Long story short, she had been living in a shed on a farm prior to being rescued in November. We are not sure if she lived there her entire life or if she had previously been someone’s pet that was dumped at one point. Either way, we are trying to “fix” the damage that was done to her which has been a huge learning experience for all of us. She is still learning to trust humans and continues to be very skittish at times. For example, she has heard/seen the TV remote fall on the floor at least 15 times yet she still jumps a foot in the air every single time. I will say that she is mostly comfortable with us & that she has become more attached to me than Curtis over the past several weeks. Whenever we’re at home & hanging out in the living room, she’s usually sitting right next to me. Or if we’re laying in bed & reading a book, she always has to have some part touching me. I cannot wait until we have some consistent nice weather & sunlight into the later evening as we can work on leash training some more along with getting her out around more people.
Since my last update, she went in for her first heartworm shot on January 31st. She had to be dropped off at the vet early that morning & stayed the entire day for observation to make sure that she didn’t have any sort of reaction. When we picked her up that evening, she was a little groggy but didn’t seem to be in any pain. We had to start her medications (prednisone, tramadol, and a muscle relaxer) that night which she took for ten days. She continued with the prednisone throughout the rest of the month which unfortunately caused a few accidents in the house.
Since she is anxious about 95% of the time, it seemed like the medications helped her relax for the first time in her life. She would lay on the couch or bed and nap for quite awhile. In the mornings, she would lay on our bed & did not want to get up for hours! Speaking of which, our bed has become one of her new favorite places to hang out. She is like a ninja sometimes & will sneak in there when we’re not paying attention just so she can sleep on it for awhile. We don’t mind it too much because she is finally showing some confidence with being inside & not so afraid of every room in the house.
During heartworm treatment, they are not supposed to do any sort of activity that causes their heart rate to increase as it can cause the worms to dislodge & create something similar to a blood clot. Whenever she goes outside, she is confined to the leash so that she doesn’t take off running in the back yard. This will continue throughout the rest of her treatment, unfortunately. She loves being outside so it’s hard to not let her run around when the weather has been really nice.
Socialization has been a huge challenge for us and is a major work in progress. I fear that this may be a deterrent when it comes to her getting adopted by someone as she struggles so much with new people. It was suggested that we take her to PetSmart some days to just walk around to try to get used to being around other people. We did this right before her heartworm treatment but unfortunately, have not had a chance to go since then. She was pretty cautious of people in the store but surprisingly walked up to a lady on her own just to sniff her shoes. Sadly, the lady was pretty rude & scoffed at her as soon as she saw there was a dog behind her. I’m going to assume that she had never been in a store like that so she wanted to sniff everything. We spent a good 45 minutes in the store & I was so proud of her! She didn’t bark, didn’t have any accidents, and didn’t have a major meltdown.
Having friends/family in our house has been another way for her to get used to new people but also seems to be more challenging than taking her out in public. Curtis’ parents have come over to our house several times yet she still struggles with being comfortable around them. Even having some of our friends over for the Super Bowl was stressful for her and she spent a good part of the first half barking. If we physically bring her into the room where we are all at, she does fine. She typically will not come into the room on her own. Occasionally she will get curious & walk in to see what we are doing but will immediately run back into the kitchen where she whines/barks. Or she will hide out under the table which has been her “safe spot” since our first night with her. I have been trying to have people give her treats whenever they come over so that she associates people with something positive as she loves food.
We attempted to have her socialize with another dog for a few days. We agreed to watch Luna, our first foster pup, to see how Sophie would do. While I thought Sophie would love to have another dog around to play with, she didn’t seem too happy about having to share her space. She was curious about Luna but there were several times where she tried to nip her face if they ended up getting too close to one another. Other times she wanted to play with her, especially if they were in the backyard together but because of the heartworm treatment, we couldn’t let them play for too long. I spoke with a dog trainer with the rescue who said that this was normal and that Sophie was setting her boundaries with Luna. My family had a Dachshund while I was growing up and he was very territorial/jealous of other dogs & people. I’m not a dog expert by any means but a lot of Sophie’s behavior while we had Luna reminded me of him. It was like she would get upset when we gave Luna more attention than her.
She was so stressed out & always on alert the entire time we had Luna. I feel like we really threw her routine out of whack. Our first night with Luna, we put their kennels in the same room together. As soon as Sophie went in to her kennel, she barked her head off. So we separated them but she continued to bark. It was getting late & we both had to work the next day so we put her kennel in our bedroom. This was the only way she would stop barking. We tried her normal spot the next night but nope, the barking continued. The night that Luna went back home, we put the kennel back in her normal spot & put her in it around 10:30pm to sleep. And she barked. And barked. Since I didn’t have to work the next day, we didn’t cave this time & put her in our bedroom. She did not stop barking until 1:30am! The next night, she barked for about an hour before she finally stopped. The night after that, she only barked a few times. Three days later, she was back to her normal self while in the kennel & didn’t make a peep. Now this is extremely baffling to me & makes me nervous to say yes if we are asked to watch Luna again. The rescue has also suggested that we take in a second foster to help with Sophie. One that is more confident & trained to kind of “show her the ropes” but after our week with Luna, I’m not even sure how she would handle another dog in the house. Actually, I don’t know how I would handle another dog in the house! I feel like my stress level would go through the roof.
After everything I mentioned above, it is clear that she has became more vocal lately. Thankfully she doesn’t bark all the time but usually whenever there is someone unfamiliar around or if she’s thirsty/needs to go outside. The second part doesn’t happen too often although sometimes it would be nice if she could bark every time she needed to pee rather than her going on the floor! It will be nice when she is done taking prednisone, that’s for sure!
In my last update, I mentioned that Sophie was struggling with understanding toys. This is still a work in progress but she has finally discovered that the elk antler we have isn’t a scary object & will chew on it.
She also loves to tear up paper– she grabbed my library receipt one night while I was reading & started ripping it apart! I found a toy that makes the crinkling noise as the squeaky toys terrify her but she would much rather chew on paper instead.
She goes in for her next round of heartworm shots on Thursday & Friday. They do them back to back so she will spend the night at the vet and we won’t be able to pick her up until Friday evening. I was told that this round could be a little harder on her. She bounced back so quickly from the first shot so I’m not sure what to expect with this one now.
Whew, this has been a novel! If you stuck around this long, THANK YOU! If you have any advice or tips on training or thoughts, please share!