Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Enter River

River was found tied to a stairwell down by the waterfront during the weekend of Hempfest here in Seattle. I didn't find  him myself. Someone phoned animal control and they came and put him in the shelter. That's where I met him.

I didn't know this, but it is illegal to tether a dog and leave him unattended in Seattle.  Even if you're just going into the store. It’s also illegal not to have him licensed and registered, so when they found him breaking two laws, they took him in. They kept him for six days before allowing anyone to adopt him, just in case his original owner came in to claim him. 

He doesn't seem to be too familiar with life indoors, so I'm teaching him a lot, and he's a good, motivated learner, and basically eager to please but still alas, a teenager with the requisite short attention span, tons of energy and a slightly rebellious streak.
So I got him. I hung out with him for three days when he was in the shelter.  Well, not the whole time, obviously.  But I did go and visit him three separate times and hung out with him for about an hour each time.

Long story short. I took him home.

So now, this is my life. I'm totally immersed in trying to make this guy act the way I want him to.
He's very excitable, but I can't take him out to play yet because he just had his operation yesterday.  So he's really confused about why I won't run and jump with him and he doesn't like it when I tell him he can't. Also, he smells like a kennel.  He desperately needs a bath, but I'm not supposed to get him wet for eight days until his wound heals. 
So, this first week is going to be very challenging.
I've already taught him how I want him to walk on the leash without pulling, and he's doing pretty good at that. 
Last night he pooped in the kitchen, but I immediately took him outside to the grass afterwards.  Then, a few hours later (when he wasn't looking) I dumped his poop out of the bag and into the grass out in front, and then I went back in and got him and took him out to let him ‘find’ it. 
HAHA, he was so confused when he noticed his poop out there.  I could see it in his face, "I don't remember pooping out here!"
But then he took the suggestion and squatted and gave me another good poop-- this one on the grass.  This earned him a big, demonstrative “GOOD BOY” a quick body massage and a treat. He's gone twice out there since, and not in the kitchen. I decided to put his food bowl right near where he pooped in the kitchen, to hopefully tap into his “don’t poop where you eat” instinct. 
He has a bit of a cough right now, which I guess is super common for dogs to get in the shelters.  But it should run its course and, like a human virus, clear itself up in a few days.  Nothing to be alarmed about unless it lingers for more than about four days.
There was one moment last night when I had to show River who was boss.  He was getting really excited and jumping around and getting on our futon, even though I was telling him not to.  And then he was trying to bite my hand when I was telling him to cool it.  He wasn’t being aggressive; he was playing, but it was too rough for my taste. So I had to dominate him. I rolled him onto his side and held him there until he relaxed, Cesar Millan style.  The whole time I was saying, "This is good. Just relax. I’m not going to hurt you. You’re a good boy."
I had to get kinda tough, physically, and he didn't give up easily. I have some scratches on my arm from the struggle. He protested a lot at first, and made a horrible sound that I hope we never have to hear again.  But in the end, I'm sure once he realized that I wasn't going to hurt him or take any shit from him, he relaxed. Now he basically does what I tell him, when he can figure out what I mean. I felt like I had to do it at that moment, or I'd lose my 'master' status. And I have to have that from the get-go.
He's not really indoctrinated with 'human owns the house' yet. But he’s learning. Maybe he used to belong to a homeless person or was kept outdoors for the majority of his first year. 
He's extremely energetic. I did not get one of those “lounging on the couch buddies” although, right now, post-walk, post-breakfast, he is actually curled up on the rug. Whew!  He’s been there for about an hour so far. 
He has that hound smell.  I don’t know if its from him or just from being in the shelter around all those other dogs, but he smells like a beagle.  And he sniffs A LOT so he might have some beagle in him.  Thankfully, he doesn't do the beagle howl. Though he sure looks all pit to me. 

So far he does NOT go in his crate. No way, no how. His water and his chew toys are in there, so he goes in to get them but then he brings them out or drinks with his back legs outside the crate. He'll reach in, but not put his back legs in and I don't want to push him in or lock him in until he’s inside and relaxed. So at this point, I haven’t been successful in getting him in his crate. 
I wonder if he's had bad crate experiences in the past.
Seeing him curled up, like he is right now, is so nice.
I hope he's partly just excited because it’s all so new, and as it gets to be more routine, he settles down. But also, once I can run him, that will help with his energy level.
For now, I’ve just been focused on setting boundaries and rules. I feel like I’m all rules now, but I also scratch his ears and hug him and do love-y stuff all the time, too. 
I made him lay in the living room while we ate dinner. I wouldn’t settle for him wandering around or, even worse, standing nearby and watching us eat.
He basically stayed where I told him, although he very slowly and gradually crawled and inched his way closer to us without losing contact with the rug he was supposed to stay on. And then, he relaxed in that splayed position. 
So I felt like, as long as he stayed laying down and basically away from the table, that was good enough for me. 
I'm sure it was a lot to ask of a dog, and he did fine. 
Then he tried to get up when he was done waiting for us.  We were done eating, but hadn't left the table yet, so I told Zeke to wait at the table because I wanted to put River back in his place and have him be relaxed there until Zeke and I could decide when dinner was over, not him.
It took a few tries to get the timing right, but finally, he relaxed in his spot and then I went back to the dinner table and waited a few seconds and then said, “OK. let's get up.” 
My first view of River
So then Zeke and I got up and that signaled that dinner was over. And I let River follow our lead. He got up from his spot and then I started preparing his dinner.
Last night he slept on the floor right next to me.  (We're still sleeping on a futon on the floor--having had no chance to put our bed together yet). I was so thrilled that he slept through the night, except for one moment, when Zeke got up at three in the morning to take a leak, it got River all excited and I could tell I wasn't going to get him back to sleep unless I took him for a walk. So I took him up to the corner and back, gave him a treat and when we got back, he curled back up on the floor and slept calmly through the rest of the night.
All in all--a pretty good first night.

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