Tuesday, January 4, 2011


If you haven't read part 1, part 2 or part 3 of Teh Breeze Saga, you may want to follow the links and read those posts first. This whole post will make a heck of a lot more sense if the previous ones have been perused.


I had been thinking about the best way to work with Breeze and her too-many-to-count issues and determined I needed to take the most pressing problem and start there. One thing at a time. Baby steps, baby steps.

I decided on day 3, after the nap and filling in the drag marks in the gravel drive, the first and foremost thing was getting her to come up to me. We couldn’t do anything if she didn’t trust me enough to get within 15 feet. So I gathered up the dog beds, some pillows, blankets and a book and settled in on the family room floor. I put one dog bed on each side of me, fluffed the pillows, snuggled in with the blankets and assumed the reading position, planning to be there as long as was necessary for her to come up to me. On her own time. With it being her choice.

It was my guess that no one or thing had ever been submissive to her and since I noticed she was more comfortable when I kneeled down I figured laying down might be even less threatening; especially if I was ignoring her and doing something else. I decided to give it a shot and see how that might work out. If it didn’t, at least I got a good day of reading in.

I called Willow over, who was more than happy to lay there being pet and praised. “Good girl Willow. What a pretty dog. Today’s high is going to be 70. The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards. A meteorite has a terminal velocity of between 200 – 400 miles per hour.” Anything to get Breeze interested in what we were doing. I even changed the pitch and tone of my voice to the ‘good girl’ frequency. And I ignored her.

Breeze spent the first hour and 6 chapters pacing outside and peeking in the back door. The next 7 chapters she spent pacing between the door and the couch with frequent trips outside. By now I had the light bulb moment that outside was a safe place (the other one being the crate behind me). After a snack and potty break (for me) we had a little bit of a set back as Breeze again spent a bit more time outside peeking in the door. Damn.

I thought about now would be a great time to take another nap. When I woke up she was in the house by the back of the couch again. Chapters 14, 15 and 16 marked the progression to the front of the couch, by way of the far end, and to the far side of the coffee table.

I noticed each time she would come in to the point where she felt safe (a relative term, that) stay for a few seconds, retreat so she could regroup, then try again, coming in just a little further each time. And when I say a little, I mean little, like little little. Measured by inches.

By hour 4, she had made her way around the front of the table and now circled the front of the couch on the way outside. Though she had yet to cross over the major boundary from tile to the carpet of the family room floor.

Hour 5 and well over half-way through the book she had touched carpet; it was like watching someone test the water of a spa to see how hot it is before sliding in. She then leaned in, neck stretched impossibly long, to sniff my propped-up-on-pillows feet. Willow was absolutely basking in the praise by then and Breeze's retreats outside were becoming shorter and shorter.

During hour 6 she conducted a full new Mom tour, circling me and pausing to sniff at my head. I raised my hand and left it up during one of her retreats to outside so the next time she circled she sniffed my hand. A few more trips and I was able to slowly lift my hand and touch her chin.

During hour 7 she decided it was OK to lay down in the room with us. In a impressively tactical move, she took up the Sphinx pose beyond the top of my head where I couldn’t easily look at her, body far enough away that she could spring up and into action if need be, but head just close enough for me to continue the now accepted delicate chin scritching.

By the last chapter and well into hour 8, she had laid down on the bed near me, head on my thigh with me scratching her ears. Her body was again poised for flight but she was there, letting me touch her. The saving grace, I guess, is that she wanted to be touched and loved; you could tell by her longing looks and body language, she was just too afraid of being hit to get close enough.

We stayed that way for a while, her lying next to me, ready to run and me petting head, ears and chin. After saying a quick ‘thanks’ that it had been a good book and that the submissive-to-Breeze plan worked (because I had no idea what I was going to do if it didn’t) I decided it was time to call it a day. By then I was pretty stiff and had to get up. I did so slowly, rolling away from Breeze and crouching first before standing fully. The caution taken in getting up didn’t work and she sprang up and ran directly out the back door. Though a little less hurried and with a less panic than that morning.

In all, a highly successful day.


houndstooth said...

She sounds a lot like several true spooks I've known. I remember being at the track in Wisconsin with some people from our adoption group. There were a pair of spooky brothers there, although three of the other dogs from their litter were fine. One of the women there was determined to adopt one of the spooks, they'd recently lost a hound and weren't afraid to do the hard work a spook requires. I went back to the kennel with her and that dog was plastered to the back of his crate. He was a total basket case. As long as things stayed within his normal routine, he'd go with it, but any variation was completely evil. They went through a long phase of what you described, too. The back door had to be propped open to get him back inside and there was a clear safe path to his crate. A year later, he was a completely different dog. He learned to follow the other hounds in their house and I honestly don't know if he'd ever have been able to live if he didn't have other Greyhounds to follow.

We had our own boy with spooky tendencies, but not that full-blown. He was a fear biter, though, and I got nailed a couple times before I figured out the things that set him off. We never knew what the fear du jour would be. One summer, it was fan cords across the floor. He got over that to discover that slick floors were scary. No sooner would we get over one fear than another would develop. It was frustrating and maddening, and yet, at the same time, as he came out of his shell, very rewarding in the end. He taught me a lot about myself, patience and acceptance than I'd learned with anything else in my life.

I think the biggest difference for any of these dogs is winding up with the right person. If they end up with somebody patient who has the right instincts, I think they overcome it. My best guess is that it comes from a combination of being spooky or shy, or having those tendencies and being handled by someone who's rough.

Sheesh! I've written a novel! In the end, I'm glad that Breeze learned to overcome her spookiness. After seeing yesterday's picture, at least, I'm assuming that she mostly has! Good on you for taking the time to work through it. I know it isn't easy!

Sue said...

Suzanne, I just loved reading about Breeze.

My Song doesn't show affection easily. She will snuggle up next to me if I am with her in the back of the car, but she won't sit nexct to me on a sofa. Also if I sit on the floor she'll go to the other side of the room. I'd try your trick, but I have arthritis in my back and just couldn't spend long on the floor. It would be a great way fopr me to finally get a book read though:)

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Very cool!

IHeartDogs said...

I really enjoy reading about Breeze. Every little improvement/win sounds so rewarding. Can't wait for more installments.

E.A. said...

Fantastic work! Looking forward to hearing more about how Breeze got on.