Saturday, December 24, 2011


If you haven’t read the other The Breeze Saga segments, 1, 2, 3, and 4, I would recommend doing so first. This one will make more sense if you do.


The morning after our marathon reading session, Breeze came over when I praised Willow for getting dressed to go on our walk, and allowed me to put on not only the martingale but the harness as well without too much of a fuss. It was much easier to work her down the driveway on the return trip with the halter on.

Pause. Gentle tug sideways. Pause. Tug. No filling in of drag marks needed. Sweet!

It was off to work for the day, but not before she came within petting distance when I was exuberantly saying goodbye to Willow. I was quite please with the significant progress in only 4 days.

Over the next week there was continued slow, but steady, progress. I noticed the time she spent in the kennel was less and less. During the day, she would claim the dog bed furthest in the house from me and remain indoors for a few hours at a time before retreating outside.

Towards the end of the first week she actually slept in the bedroom for part of the night. For the first few days she wouldn’t come in the bedroom when I was in the house. My guess is because there was only one entrance and exit and it was down a long hallway. It was far too easy to be trapped.

I would head to bed at night and Willow would follow, leaving Breeze down at the other end of the house. One night she whined and whined to let us know she was not happy about the sleeping arrangements. I could hear her pacing from the family room to the hall and back, nails clicking on tile, coming closer and closer with each pass. I lay frozen in bed, not even daring to yawn. It took well over an hour for the nails clicking on tile to stop when she entered the bedroom and her steps were muffled by the carpet. I heard her settle in to the dog bed I had put adjacent to the door for her before I nodded off. She wasn’t there when I looked the next morning, but it was a good start. It became the routine over the following week. She would sleep in the bedroom at night, following us in after the light went out and scamper out when she heard me rustle awake. I’ll take it.

Since I worked from home for much of the time, I was able to focus on figuring out what was the next most pressing issue to work on. It was pretty clear. She ran every time I moved. The scuttling kind of run – tail tucked, ears back, head low, back end hunched and seeming to out-run the front end. If I shifted in my chair. She ran outside. Turn a page to finish typing. Outside. Lean over to get a paper off the printer. Already outside, since the noise of the printer had freaked her out.

We had an uneasy truce, she would come in the house and lay down on a bed, but always in the family room and always watching me, never relaxed and only if I was in the office and not moving around. That allowed for 2 couches and a table between us.

Time to break the truce.

I started by shifting in my chair. She would run. I would wait until she came back inside to see where I had moved to. When she realized I hadn’t gotten up, she would settle back into her bed. I would give her some time and shift again. Over the course of a day, we progressed nicely. I would shift and she would run only to the door, but not outside. Shift. Halfway to the door. Then she would stand but not move off the bed. Finally, she would lift a head, but not get up. Woot! Progress. I felt as though I had climbed Mt Everest, graduated from college, and figured out world peace all at once. Such accomplishment.

So it was on to the next step. I stood up. That was it. Just out of the chair then sat back down.

Terror! Panic! You would think she was being chased by a long legged clown that had just popped out from under the bed. (Thank you Poltergeist for my unreasonable dislike of clowns.)

When I could finally stand without her getting up, I added a few steps into the equation. The first ones in the opposite direction from her. Never overtly looking at her before, during or after. It had to be all about her without it being about her. When I could take a couple of steps without her getting up, I started taking a couple of steps in her direction. Once that worked, it was into the kitchen and back. Always keeping the couch or wall between us. She eventually got to the point where she wouldn’t lift her head, but would follow my every movement with her eyes.

So it was time to really push her comfort zone. I walked from the kitchen through the dining room to the laundry, which was right next to her cave. This crossed her escape path. She solved that quite nicely by circling behind me around the dividing wall and heading outside.

Over and over we did this with breaks between to let her relax. This whole process took about 3 days, but we eventually conquered one of the major fears. She was OK with me walking around the house as long as I didn’t walk directly towards her while making eye contact. Sweet! We can work on the eye contact and approaching next.

She also started playing with Willow. She was far more comfortable with Willow than with me. I would be out of sight in the den and the two of them would do laps around the house and into the back yard. When they would run outside, I would sneak over to peek out the kitchen window to see how Breeze was doing. I almost passed out the day when I heard the squeaky toy, looked out to the two playing in the back yard and realized it was Breeze squeaking it and not Willow. I was so proud of Willow sharing her knowledge and Breeze being secure enough to play.

My favorite memory of the first few weeks was when Breeze finally felt comfortable enough to explore the bedroom during the day even though I was standing in the kitchen, the gateway to the scary one way hallway of death. She and Willow went racing down the hall. I could hear significant rustling, then quick nail clicks on the tile floor as they made the return trip. Breeze was in the lead. She had ‘killed’ the fuzzy slipper in the closet, the kind with the fluffy sheep skin inside. She pranced around with it overhead, held high like the Olympic torch, so proud of her successful hunt. I didn’t want to make any sudden moves or discipline her when she was finally playing, so I figured I would have to sacrifice the slipper for the cause. It was well worth it. To finally see her being joyful and carefree was well worth cold toes.

Sneaking pictures of the girls playing.


verobirdie said...

A great lesson of patience and love! And very rewarding too.

Sue said...

It's lovely to see them coming out of themselves. Even now Song shows signs of improvement.

Angela J. said...

Beautifully written and your experience with overcoming her fears sounds exactly like ours with Maddy!