Friday, February 24, 2012

Sophie > Diary of a Southern Belle 5

Adventures & Training

I am making every effort to expose Sophie to all kinds of stimuli so we visit various places, practice our training under the different circumstances. Example, lie down on the sidewalk while we sit at an outdoor table & I have a cup of coffee while people, skaters & cars go by.

One thing for sure: she likes to lead o the lead. She's like a scout. However, on our property, she heels like an angel w/o a leash but off property she seems extremely guarded, watchful. But she is not confident enough about all the 'stuff' going around her to heel well.....yet. She remains too distracted.

On a walk down main street she is still preoccupied by the activity around her; she changes positions,i.e. left to right or behind purposefully. Is she trying to protect me from somebody walking by on the right or behind me? (She is also now lying in doorways in the house.)

For pure exercise we walk along forest paths in the town  parks. There I let her drag a 10' lead behind her. When she gets too far ahead, she turns to see where I am. On her own, she will stop until I catch up. She also 'waits' on command. If there is a fork in the trail, she looks to me for direction and I point & she goes in that direction.  Sometimes we play hide & seek as I duck behind a tree or start walking in the opposite direction. This way she has learned to keep an eye on me.

There is a also good mile plus walk around our town recreation center. There we walk through high grasses on either side of the path, past several ponds, over a little bridge. There are picnic tables & benches along the way & I have her jump onto to those objects to give her more confidence & her back legs extra exercise. When she jumps it looks effortless  but we know she lacks muscle tone in her rear legs. On this trail, she did fine, again a little cautious if someone approaches. But at the end of these walks she is definitely tired so I think her endurance has to be built up. Soon Carol will start running with her.

When she was first rescued, she weighed about 125#, terribly overweight, because she was free fed and had zero exercise. I'm happy to report that with the regimen that her foster mom put her on and that I've continued, she is down to a measly 106# as of today 02/24/12. And a good thing, too, because her groomer had to pick her up to get into the tub. She did fine with him, the fussing, the hair dryer and all. But she was definitely glad to see me return. 

Now that Sophie has learned how to open doors, I'm trying to teach her how to close them.  This is one smart girl & I'm doing  my best to keep her busy. When you point at something, I've found some Bouvs look at the finger, others look at where it is pointed. Sophie does the latter. She is very sensitive to all things including subtle body movements so a point to lie down in your bed works for her.

She sits for her dinner & waits for permission to eat. She waits to go thru the door after me. She asks permission to come up on the sofa. She naturally moves over to give me room on the sofa or gets off the sofa automatically if carol is already there & there is no more room.  

She understands the words “no more” as in treats, scratching, etc. She has learned she is going to stay behind with “bye-bye” & makes no effort to get out the door as we leave. She has learned to move with “excuse me”.  She knows “sit”, “down”.  She will “talk” to me when I talk directly to her. She goes into attention mode on “watch”. “Do you want to go for a ride?”, “go to the office”, “want to go out”, “want a biscuit” gets enthusiastic responses. She aims for the “office” door if I use that word & aims for the house if I say “home”. If she's out & I'm inside she barks to be let in or pushes the door open. What will she learn in the months ahead? I can hardly wait.

Personality & Protection

On her first trip to the dog park for “socialization” Sophie was patient w some of the other dogs until they got a little rambunctious, at which point she would warn them. She didn't wander far from me but I saw her prey drive kick in once as she went chasing with some other dogs, but then realizing  she wasn't sure was ok with me, looked back for permission to continue. She went back to chasing and as a test, after a bit, I called her back to see what would happen & she immediately returned to my side.

Sophie's new attention word is "watch" and she does just that. We played at 'watch' today when the oil delivery arrived. She did pretty well.  On another occasion a friend arrived at the gate while we we were wandering around. She saw that & immediately went towards the gate barking. I praised her, then opened the gate & introduced her to person who I invited onto the property. She was fine. 

Then, the other day, while sleeping on her pad in the office, Carol sort of barged in unannounced. Sophie jumped to feet, immediately went into protection barking, started for the door until she noticed it was Carol, then became a little shameful. We both praised her effort. 

And finally, the other day a friend came over & knocked on the office door. Sophie immediately went to the door and quietly waited for me. I opened it  to a male friend who stuck his hand hand out for a  Sophie wifff. I told her it was ok & he entered. He petted her, then said 'hi' to Stella, & back to Sophie who seemed fine with him. But  for some reason as she was smelling him some more, he looked straight into her eyes which elicited a very low, mean growl, nothing unusual for a Bouv but he was properly startled & I explained 'staring' was a challenging 'no-no'. So there's something in there, unlike Stella, who is basically a shell of a Bouvier (but whom I love dearly).

On President's Day I again took her to the dog park (not my favorite place for more canine socialization). On lead, everyone took a smell & though she was apprehensive she put up with it & returned the same interest. I let her off lead. There was a lab chasing a ball but she showed no interest, walking along side me. I walked to an area where other dogs were playing. She observed but did not partake. I tried to interest her in the ball. She perked up sightly (a “1” on the 0-10 scale) but wouldn't chase. 

There was a bench in the sun so I decided to sit down to see what she would do. She lay down at my feet. A few curious dogs  came by  & I heard a growl. Two of the three decided it was probably better to move on but one stayed on to investigate further from the back of the bench. Sophie stood, stuck her head under the bench to watch & must have been putting out some signal because the other dog decided to move around to the front of the bench where I was sitting. BIG MISTAKE. Sophie went after him, chasing it away @ full speed. I called out to her; she stopped in her tracks & immediately returned to me. Clearly she was guarding 'our' space & had no interest in socializing so we left. Will try again in a few days.
Life With Stella Bella 

As reticent as Stella is, Sophie is exuberant.  Sophie explodes into action, Stella trundles along but Sophie watches Stella, stays away from her food & treats. But there are times Sophie's mischievous side emerges and she charges Stella who steps aside and does a mini charge back at which point Sophie goes into play stance, bowed front end, forelegs outstretched. It's very funny to watch but reminds me of every young Bouv trying to get its elder to “dance”.  

Meanwhile Sophie has invaded Stella's space w/o incident. Remember: the sofa, fireplace, 2 chairs forming a rectangular space is what Stella  considers her “crate”. Well, over the weeks, Sophie started to encroach on that space slooowly but surely. First step: Sophie's head & fore paws intruded while the rest of her body was outside the space. Then half a body. Now Sophie sleeps inside the space but NEVER on the sofa. She seems perfectly comfortable on the floor or on the hearth, at a lower spot than Stella. The sofa remains Stella's un-challenged, private domain as it should be. 

Stella's favorite treat is a mini carrot and Sophie has now learned to appreciate them which wasn't true at the beginning. When Stella hears carrots being cut she waddles into kitchen for treat. Sophie not wanting to lose out on a treat of any kind, is right behind her. 

Medical Report

Sophie no longer limps. Instead, she runs & jumps even though I try to limit it. She doesn't seem preoccupied with her other limbs. She is peeing less and we believe this is part of the bacterial issue which is being tended to. Her attention to her urinary area (licking) has lessened probably along with the lower bacterial numbers.

At 8:35pm A few days ago, Dr. Judith Feldstein (surgeon) called to say Sophie's urine culture came back negative so we are DEFINITELY gaining on infection. Also allowed the Soph off Tramadol & leash as long as she doesn't go crazy. We have follow up appointment on the 24th . I'm going to try to convince this vet to be Sophie's primary care vet as I REALLY LIKE HER A LOT. Carol & I agree that the extra expense of going to this place is worth it to us. Fingers crossed.

I don't like imagining things but Sophie yawns a lot or opens her mouth a lot & sneezes a lot. She also has a few reverse sneezing fits. It's odd behavior to me. But it can be explained by the bacterial invasion & possibly the time of year, i.e. allergy. I always watch behaviors & the Soph is eating, drinking & eliminating properly. Her spirits are good, her eyes -- a bit odd -- look clear but I will take her to eye specialist for a check up in a few weeks. Her personality is winsome & wonderful. We play & talk to each other. She seems to love it. And she wanders the property at will with Stella several times daily.

We had a follow up appointment today 02/24/12 & everything was fine; a good report. The current plan calls for finishing the antibiotics (another 7-8 days). Then another 7-10 days past   the last pill, we  return for another urine culture to make sure Sophie is clear of all bacteria. I have to keep special watch over her, paying particular attention between days 5-7 in case there is a relapse. Believe me, I'm on top of it.

Six Degrees of Separation

I think we've all been very lucky. Sophie's infection seems to have been caught in the nick of time. It must have been building up for a while considering the extremely high  levels. But we're over the hump. She had excellent and expensive care with the specialists at the Bedford-Katonah Medical Center. Fortunately surgery was not necessary but it was a close call. 

I have kept in close touch with Sophie's savior & foster mom (Deborah) through the entire process. The ABRL stepped up to the plate to help defray some of the thousands of dollars this cost.  I am immensely grateful to Deborah & Bob Dickerson for entrusting me with Sophie and to Marcia Proud for helping when it was really needed.

It's funny how the world works. A little over 13 years ago, I delivered a rescue, named 'Rheba' to Deborah & Bob as they contemplated their retirement to  their farm in North Carolina. 'Rheba' was a piece of work, a delightfully energetic girl whom Deb & Bob took under their wing & as company for a terribly abused rescue they already had named “Moxie” who came from an abusive breeder / groomer whom I knew here in CT.  'Rheba' lived a wonderful long life in the country with the Dickersons who have since resuced 85 other Bouvs. 'Rheba' died at age 16 1/2 and here we have the full circle whereby Deborah and Bob have given Sophie to us thirteen and a half years later. That's what it's all about.

I don't know when the next diary entry will be made. I will continue to take Sophie & Stella on walks through our various parks; maybe even to Compo Beach which is open to dogs in the winter. In the early spring I will have to teach Sophie about the flower beds &  in  early summer, Sophie, Stella & I will travel  to Sharon Springs, NY for the annual Bouvstock celebration. It'll be lots of fun. After that we'll get into swimming, hiking and other activities. I hope the girls are happy here with us.

If you get nothing else from this diary, please understand the importance & reward for rescuing a Bouvier in need. Please get involved. Do it. 

Sophie (and Stella).

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