Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The dog I have...

Amos had never been confined before he came to live with me.  So, when I went to crate him that first night, as I have written, he was terrified.  That tiny little puppy threw himself at the sides of the cage with such fear that he knocked the crate over and over again.  He also pooped all over himself and the crate.

Thinking about that, I realized that that must have been the moment Amos' fear response was born.  I mean, I know he's a pup and not a person, but his greatest fear response is to poop, even if I have taken him outside just moments before.

That night, I tried crating him three times, I think.  Three times of cleaning him up.  Then, I thought, literally, "What would happen if I just let him sleep with me?"  I did.  We bonded.  Life is good.

Amos' fear was not a part of his life, aside from that first night at 10-weeks-old, until after the pit bull attack.  From that wretched day, fear is as much a companion to him as I have been.  He has progressed since then, learning to be away from me with less anxiety.  One of the biggest steps forward was when he finally could bear my slipping out of bed at night to go to the bathroom or fetch ice packs.  Granted, I tell him that I am fetching ice packs.  If I forget, he whimpers and whines and scratches at the door, if I shut it or trembles at the top of the stairs if I don't.

It took me a very long time to stop getting angry at Amos when he is afraid.  Not all the time, but sometimes I became impatient when, after spending up to an hour outside cajoling him, without success, to tend to his needs, only to have him poop inside.  Part of that was learning to recognize his fear triggers.  Part of it was to stop trying to force him to face his fears outside.  I will encourage him, but if after comfort he continues to want to go inside, we do.

In turn, Amos is more consistent about asking to go outside after we have been outside before, even if it has been two or three or four times of asking only to have his fear drive him back inside.  Eventually, we will find a safe spate of quiet and stillness needed for him to tend to his needs.

Before, I put him in timeout if he didn't tend to his business.  "No poo-poo, no momma."  Amos HATED it, but HATING it did not change his fear.  And Amos' fear is much, much, much stronger than his bodily needs or his desire for my presence.

I realized that I didn't have to understand his fear.
I just had to accept it.

Amos is a pup, not a person.  Yet trying to command him like a pup got me nowhere.  For years.  Giving up my agenda for him and moving to trying to help him have the fullest life possible has made our life together better.  Sure, I wish Amos were not plagued by fears.  It breaks my heart to see him tremble from head to toe.  And, honestly, it breaks my spirit to find his fear poop inside the house.  I wanted an easy dog.  I had that, other than with crating, until the pit bull attack.  Since then, I have the dog who is a survivor with wounds not of his own making trying to live his life as best he can.

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