Monday, April 6, 2020

Cars, Steps and Second Chances

OMG!   He screeches like a frightened barn owl when he's in the car. He freezes when approaching a bare floor and, with poor depth perception, stairs are quite an issue.  And I'm determined to make everything right, make him comfortable in his new home, want to "hurry up" and fix it all.  Dusty comes with very little history, only that he's had several owners along the way.  Sure would like to smack the original human who had him as a pup and likely caused all his problems in the first place.  I remind myself that despite his questionable beginnings Dusty is a well-behaved love of a dog. I look at his little face that suggests I calm down, lighten up, have patience with both of us, especially myself. I scoop him into my arms and we head for the rocking chair.  Sweet Dusty settles in instantly.  Eventually I succumb to the relaxing motion and consider the concept of slowly working on our issues with patience, humor and treats. He likes grain free chicken tidbits.  I'll take a bag of chocolate chip cookies.  

We're heading out for a short trip in the car. Dusty is tucked safely in his crate with a favorite toy and cozy blanket.  He's engrossed in his barn owl screeching.  I'm blabbering, "It's okay, Dusty, I'm right here with you, you're safe, we're almost there."  Don't think he gives a hoot about logic. My muscles are tight, stomach churning.  The vet (who treated all of my critters over the years) is gentle and reassuring.  He says Dusty is healthy, gets him up-to-date on shots and offers car trip advice.  "Play music, try a dog car seat that lets him see out the window, take him for short drives around the neighborhood and don't talk to him." We listen to John Denver on the way home, me singing, Dusty screeching.  "Calm down, be patient, lighten up,"  I tell myself, blotting the tears on my face.  Once in the house we console ourselves with treats - a chicken tidbit for Dusty, half a bag of cookies for me. 


Improvement!  Following the vet's advice, after several months there is improvement.  With his blanket he settles securely into the soft, open carrier attached to the back seat of the Jeep. It's positioned high enough to let him look out of the window.  We take regular short journeys listening to "Annie's Song", an old, low-key John Denver hit.  On the way out there's a little pretend screeching. We park and go for a walk.  On the way home - not a sound from the back seat.  Hallelujah!  It's working!  The consistent reinforcement is working, but my ego likes to think the success is mainly because Dusty is beginning to trust me.

Dusty lost his left eye before he joined my family.  As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know much of his history.  My veterinarian did track down enough information on his eye surgery to learn that the infection involved just one eye, the removal fixed the problem and his right eye, as well as the rest of him, was in excellent health.   At issue for Dusty was loss of depth perception.  For me the issue was helping him adjust to new environs that included deck steps and not letting my mother’s “Hurry Up” mantra take over my head.

     Depth perception gives you the ability to accurately judge the distance between you

and something else. The loss of an eye means the loss of that judgement. Dusty had

adapted to having just one eye pretty well on flat terrain, but the five deck steps that led

down to his fenced yard and back up to the kitchen door were troubling.  He was very

hesitant in both directions requiring a lot of coaxing and hands-on help.  It upset me to

see him uncomfortable and I was bound and determined to fix the situation.  Fortunately,

it didn’t take much and I stayed calm.

To eliminate the precarious open spaces, I had our carpenter nail risers to the back of

each deck step.  Once this was done I put outdoor carpet pieces on the five stairs and

placed small pots of flowers at the ends of each from top to bottom so there was

something to feel on each side.  Dusty was hesitate at first, but quickly got the hang of

navigating his new safe passage up and down.   As for me, I remained pretty unruffled

throughout this project, no past voices in my head.  Proud of both of us, I sat on the top

step with my sweet little dog and thought about my forgiveness request and second chances.