‘Cause Mama Said

Dear Diary,

Mama took me to that place again where that man is. It was a lot better now that I knew him and the place. Last week was our first time going, it was just me and mama. Mama says that Rose has to stay home when we go see the man. Mama says not to worry about Rose getting left out because Rose is having surgery on her right crucial lig’ment next week and then she and mama will have loads of one-on-one time during her recuperation.

So when we met the man basically it was boring. Mama took me to meet him and then just sat there, right on the couch, IGNORING ME!! and answering the man’s questions. Last week when we left mama said we had homework to do but it wasn’t hard or anything. Mostly just regular stuff like mama makes us do all the time like sitting for food, hugs, going outside, coming inside, getting in the car, or getting out the car there’s always so much sitting, I always do better at this than Rose but I’m older and wiser so that makes sense. Some other homework was more for mama than for me. The man showed her some tricks about making some sounds and doing some gestures that help mama talk to me in a way I understand better than when she says WERDS. The man wants mama to make sure I always know that she’s in charge and if anything is ever too scary or confusing I can just go to mama and she’ll tell me what to do. One night mama was working on her homework and Aidan was running and hollering about but I looked at mama and just knew that everything was going to be okay…and THEN Aidan snuck real close and gave me my first hug (from a little boy) and I wasn’t scared or anything…ya know, ’cause mama said.

Well, so this week we went back to the place to see the man. He’s a really nice man. He already knows how to talk in my language which isn’t really with werds anyhow. I know who’s in charge when he’s there and I know what he wants me to do and he helps me learn how I can do it…and then he tells me how beautiful and sweet I am. He is teaching mama how to talk to me, too. She is really bad at it. When mama tries to talk to me I don’t know exactly what she is saying or exactly what she wants me to do and it’s really, really confusing. I can feel that mama is really nervous and confused, too. But the man told me that he’ll teach her and then we’ll be talking to each other in no time at all. The man also said that mama is going to mess up, a lot, even when she understands better how to talk to me but since mama is in charge that EVEN WHEN she messes up she should never, ever let me know that she knows that she messed up. Mama is mama and what she says goes EVEN if what she says is wrong, silly, or confusing. The man says it is not my job to question mama, it is my job to be wrong with mama when mama is wrong and right with mama when mama is right. It is mama’s job to know the difference because mama is mama.

When the man had me sitting and moving into place, I was focused on him so much I forgot mama was even in the room (the man is mesmerizing!). I felt so strong, confident, and sure sitting (in place) at his (left) side. I felt big and beautiful. Chest out. Ears up. Attention focused. When it was over and I could look around again, I saw mama standing there looking at me wiping tears from her eyes. I could tell they were happy tears – she was proud.

Strong. Confident. Beautiful.

I can’t wait to do this weeks’ homework and help mama. When the man’s not there, mama is the best thing around. She’s not as mesmerizing but she’ll get there…especially now that she’s home all day.

Week 1: The Evaluation

So a quick recap – the girls and I are now living with an Aidan and have hit a bump in the road. My nervous nelly, Analaigh, has been noticeably unsettled and after a few warning growls I knew it was time to speak to a professional. After getting a recommendation from a local pittie rescue, Harley’s Haven, run by a former co-worker I emailed a behaviorist and said this about my girl and our situation:

I have two pitbulls which were rescued in 2010. My older dog, Analaigh, is a shy and nervous dog. She get startled by loud or sudden noises, still exhibits separation anxiety, and is just generally a quieter and shyer dog. I recently moved into a living situation where we are now living with a toddler. Since we moved Analaigh has become noticeably more nervous. She finds it difficult to relax if we are all in a room together and will pace constantly and the constant noises are obviously upsetting her. Recently she has started exhibiting concerning behaviors such as absolute refusal to go into her crate and she growling when the toddler rushes too fast in her direction. We live in the basement and I think that the daily noises coming from upstairs while she is kept in her crate while I am at work have added to her separation anxiety and is why she resists crating. Although, spending more time going over our training and basic commands this week has helped me lure her in with a command and treat.  

I was hoping you may be able to evaluate her and/or our situation to help me help her better. I want to make sure we are all comfortable in our home and I’m just not sure how to do that best for Analaigh. Luckily our living area is in the basement so there is a “safe” place for her to go if and when she feels uncomfortable but I am hoping to help her be able to relax more in our home.

After some emailing and phone calls (which Analaigh overheard last week) we set up a plan of a 6-8 week behavior class. This week was week #1: The Evaluation. As I sat on the couch answering questions and cautiously watching Analaigh sniff our 6 foot radius while silently praying she didn’t do something to make it look as though I had raised a beast, John (our behaviorist’s name) took his notes and made his assessment. As you can read above, my impression of Analaigh is that she is a very sweet, shy, nervous, and increasingly fearful dog.

The professional opinion regarding Analaigh’s personality is that she is a confident, sometimes pushy, dog. Sparing you too many details – packs are made up of dogs of multiple ranks (higher to lower). Your higher ranking dogs are smart, thoughtful, inquisitive, and confident. They are who lower ranking dogs look to for guidance and direction. Analaigh is a higher ranking dog and as such, in the presence of our 19 month old toddler, is confused about who and what he is and how this impacts her. As the highest ranking component of our household it is my responsibility to give her this information and this is where I have been falling short. Every growl is the warning she is giving me and us that as the animal in a confusing situation she will do what dogs do unless instructed otherwise. On the other end of the spectrum is our dear Rosiebear who neither looks at or perks up when Analaigh gives her warning indicating that Rose is a lower ranking dog who trusts Analaigh to take care of and handle everything so she can continue on continuing on licking Aidan’s earlobe or being petted by him.
I was floored…completely floored. John says he doesn’t see Analaigh as a nervous, worried, or fearful dog at all and I will spend the next few weeks learning how to be better equipped to provide Analaigh with the structure and direction she’s been looking for.
I am so excited to start and in the few training sessions I’ve run at home with Analaigh in the presence of Aidan this week, I can tell that Analaigh is too.
I am looking forward to sharing our journey with you.