Friday, January 06, 2012

Sophie Rifkinson, a Southern Belle

January 2012


North Carolina Sophie, age 7, has white around her muzzle. She is over-sized, probably at 30" at the withers, she's a little long in body, fully cropped (small ears like old style), has a deep chest, a great black nose, very pretty IMO. Currently her black coat is growing back but I think she will look beautiful & HUGE with a full Bouvier coat by next summer. She reminds me of the early Dutch Bouvs, good head, long limbs, etc

As I understand it, the first couple of years of her life were ok  but then, after a divorce, she was relegated to the back porch where she spent 90% of her day with two other Bouvs. When rescued, she was matted, nails curled under, free fed, the old story.

She was cleaned up, vetted, had her teeth cleaned (she doesn't mind having her teeth brushed), her hair is growing back. It will be a luxurious, probably soft coat but I'll do what I can to thin it out & stiffen it up a bit like Stella.

Watching the two of them together is like watching Mutt & Jeff -- Sophie being oversiezed & Stella being undersized. 

As Sophie has not had any real freedom most / all of her life she is VERY interested in everything. Initially she got slightly unnerved by all the new stimuli but she tries to figure them out w ears pricked, etc. She does not appear fearful, just careful & observant. Bottom line: she LOVES being outside to wander & see new things although she also likes going into the house.

The problem is she has a real FLIGHT fright. At one point in her first life, she ran away for unknown reasons & led a feral existence. After 3 months she was 'captured' in a weakened, emaciated and starving condition in someone's backyard. The animal control folks who were aware of her disappearance, picked her up & returned her to her owner from whom she had fled.

Sophie's foster parents, Deb & Bob Dickerson, very committed & wonderful, experienced Bouvier people didn't have the kind of property to let her roam free but they cleaned her up, stipped her of her matted coat, cut her nails, vetted her, got her shots, cleaned her teeth and loved the heck out of her for two month. They took her on daily 2-3 mile walks to help her lose weight. Seeing a leash immediately causes a butt wag.

To meet Sophie, I had Stella dragging a lead in a forest walking path setting. When Deb / Bob approached with Sophie, who was at full attention, pulling her lead to see who that was up ahead (us), Stella took one look & retreated quickly, fortunately not out of sight. With some doing, I was able to coax her back. There were only a few snorfuls, but not much interaction between them at all, as we stood around. talking. I made sure Stella felt appreciated and that she was a good girl. 

Leaving the foster parents behind, Carol, Stella, Sophie & I walked along the forest path @ Aldrich Park until Deb & Bob were out of sight.

I used a veeeeery long training leash for this exercise so Sophie had the illusion of freedom. She alternated between going forwards with us -- out of interest in her surroundings -- and backwards to look for her foster parents -- but was obedient, coming when called (after a slight tug), sitting & lying down for petting sessions when we rested.

After about 45 minutes we returned to our car (fosters had left). She got in readily & we drove home.

At home I let her loose trailing the training leash behind her to investigate the property. She checked the entire 2.5 acre perimeter probably trying to figure out if she could escape. She also checked the front gate a few extra times as she must recognize that as a connection to the outside & freedom.

Carol took her shopping to Pet store w/o incident.

At home she was calm but curious, always looking out the windows & glass doors but eventually settling down. Probably still looking for foster parents.

Dinner was un-eventful. She clearly likes to go outside, gets very excited when she sees a leash but is curious / startled / interested in all the new noises & lights she sees around the property. She spent the night sleeping on a window seat, the same place where Stella goes when I leave her alone. It's a huge window seat so I don't anticipate any issues.

Sophie shows no outward nervousness, perhaps a tiny show of anxiety w licking & paw raised every once in a while but it dissipates quickly & she does react to commands. She is naturally glued to one of us at all times. She will make eye contact with both of us.

The girls together are like two ships passing through the night. I don't think there will ever be a problem there.

This morning they enjoined a barking session with the next door mutt by running down, just short of the fence but turning around to see if I was still there and / or to see if it was ok. Then we toured the property again, totally leashless. Afterwards she wanted to come back into the house.

She has no hesitation entering the house or the cottage as Stella had at the beginning. On exit (off lead) She started to go out the door first & a very low throat clearing from me caused her to look up @ me & back up. Not one word was spoken & I went out first. 

I think she's very intuitive & communicative & I can see her developing a big vocabulary in time. She has prey drive (un-like Stella), is very sweet & when we peel back the onion layers I suspect -- as did her foster parents -- what will emege will be ALL Bouvier.

I will continue to update her blog here. Eventually I will move it over to the Bouvier section of the big blog. For those of you who have twitter, Sophie has her own hash tag which is #sophierifkinson where I will post 'stuff'