Irving to Amarillo - Nia in Dallas
Something odd has been happening. In the past three days, three different people have reached their hands out to River, who responded by snarling and snapping. He didn't connect to anyone, thanks to the quick reactions of the people and myself. But it makes me wonder what has happened to my message that "River needs to be ignored."
I have distinct memories of telling each of the people in the past to please make no attempts to pet or connect with River as he cannot handle the stimulation and I have made a promise to him that I will keep him away from any undue stimulation in exchange for his patience and cooperation with all of the craziness of moving in and out of dance studios past excited strangers.
For River, someone reaching their hand toward his head is a threat. It doesn't matter if the intention is to lovingly pet him, or to 'let him smell my hand'. He doesn't want to smell your hand, he is literally frightened by your invasion of his personal space and his reaction is one of fear and self-defense.
One of the offenders actually scolded River, saying "No!" after he snapped at her. But I corrected her, saying "We don't tell him NO for that." She was surprised to hear that, but I explained that he is expressing his fear and telling you to get your hand out of his face, and he's perfectly justified in protecting his personal space. It would be unusually cruel to punish or admonish him for expressing his fear. I said, "the NO is actually for you. You shouldn't reach for him that way." I reminded her that I told her last year that River is to be ignored and she said that she 'didn't get that." I distinctly remember her reaction last year when I reminded her. She sort of laughed and shrugged as if I was talking nonsense." It makes perfect sense why she wouldn't remember my telling her to ignore River because she didn't seem to want to hear it and didn't really take in the information. But thanks to River making it a bit more clear, I think she got it this time. Luckily he didn't need to physically connect to make his point.
But just as a reminder to everyone.... RIVER NEEDS TO BE IGNORED. He in an anti-social dog with fear and trust issues. And the way he handles his fear is by being pro-active. But he has no desire to start anything with anyone. He's not looking for a fight and he will never be the aggressor. When he is ignored properly, he is a sweet angel, but if he is engaged, he will likely feel the need to protect himself.
Looking into his crate while he's in the studio is not cool, either. It makes him very nervous. And reaching for his head is definitely a transgression. I do my best to keep River from harming anyone, but it does require your cooperation and strict ignoring. You can watch him as he explores and sniffs things, but don't engage him. The best way to show him that you care about him is to let him be. When I bring him into a studio, I escort him quickly and directly into the crate. It is not our intention for River to be an attraction. He only travels with me because I am unable to travel without him.
I can appreciate that it's novel and can be exciting for dog-lovers to have a dog in the Nia studio, but unfortunately, he's not thrilled by it. He tolerates the time we spend in the studio, but it is not something he enjoys. He does his best to remain calm and I do everything I can to that end as well. Thank you for understanding.
After class, we took a long drive to Amarillo. I was considering a stop at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but since the drive was already six hours, I couldn't. I consider a six hour drive as a full day. I don't usually like to include a full day of driving and a Nia class in the same day, but sometimes its unavoidable (like today). I also don't like to include a visit to a big park on the same day as a long drive, and of course doing all three in one day is out of the question.
So Palo Duro will have to wait.
The sun was setting by the time we pulled into the Motel 6 in Amarillo. I'm amazed at how familiar some of these locations are. I can remember exactly what room I stayed in last year, and I remembered all of River's favorite bushes. I wonder if River recollects these places, too, or if every time we get to a Motel 6 it's a brand new adventure.
Sometimes, on long drives such as today, whenever I stop for a rest, River doesn't want to climb back in the car. He'll be lying in the sun, stretched out and just look at me with his tongue out when I tell him to "Hop Up" into his seat. Sometimes I relent and let him lounge a little longer, but other time, when there is a long distance to cover still, I have to be more demanding. But long ago I made a commitment never to force him into the car or to pick him up and put him in. I always tell him we're going and let him jump up on his own. That said, there have been a couple of times when he (for unknown-to-me reasons) stood at the car door making moves like he's getting prepared to jump up, but he hesitates and doesn't jump. He doesn't give up, either, just continues to prepare to get up. So twice, I've given him boosts under his back legs and once I picked him up and put him in. But that is the exception. And today, I simply let him lounge a bit longer and then, when I asked him again, he complied.
After getting back into the room and showering off, I took another look at that possibly cancerous spot on my popliteal space. Again, the challenge of getting a good clear picture seemed insurmountable, but the wound did appear to have changed. I no longer saw the black spot in the center and it looked less moist and fresh. I was encouraged that it seems to be healing.