LARA, how small steps can bring tears to the eyes


Well the weekend was busy, busy, busy. Sunday evening saw the last of the DogSmith Boutique Country Retreat Clients depart and silence reigned, except for my noisy Aussie, JRT-mix and Kelpie all charging around the farm. Yesterday evening the four of us and Lara walked around our property sniffing and smelling and reliving the memories of other dogs. Lara seemed a little down. Maybe she was missing Sadie, our Springer Spaniel guest who she had romped with all weekend. But Sadie was gone. Sadie had departed earlier that day on her way back to Tampa with her newly married parents. Sadie and Lara had been inseparable for the four days she had been here. Lara is happy to run behind and around us wherever we go and I have now grown used to using my dogs to move her around. I still must resort to bribery and blackmail to get her back inside most nights. Even with a 6 foot line hanging from her collar, it’s almost as if she has worked out that I can get within 6 ½ feet without being able to grab it.

Last night we sat quietly in the training room and I demarked a 6 foot space around me. Every time she stepped closer, looked at me or showed any sign of movement I clicked and treated. It took about 30 minutes but I was able to ‘shape’ her coming within my demarked zone. Lara is happy to relax around me now but always at a distance. We actually dozed together for a while in a funny kind of way last night until I was awoken by my dogs barking to let me know it was time for bed.

This morning I awoke at 6 am feeling tired and achy. The weekend had been a physical one of yard work and doggie supervision. I wandered over to our guest house and let Lara out into the small yard. I then sat quietly in the living area drinking my coffee and reading my APDT Journal. Lara was bouncing around the yard and I could see her running past the open door. Suddenly she appeared in front of me and bobbed her nose against my knee. I gently placed my hand on her head and she remained there while I stroked her. It was hard not to get too excited and I knew any sudden movement by me would have sent her packing. She laid at my feed and we sat like that for a few moments. I carefully turned the pages of my magazine to avoid any sudden noise that might spook her. For those of you who know me, you will appreciate how hard it is for me to sit quietly. I have often been described by my family “as having the presence of a hurricane.” After a few moments Lara started her slow journey around the room, stretching a full length to sniff and investigate every chair, plant, piece of furniture. Every step she takes is a desperate act of heroism as she moves carefully around braving the new and unknown.

I watched for ages, kicking myself for not having my camera so I could keep this for the file. She then disappeared and when she did not return for a few moments I went in search. Lara was curled up in a very relaxed manner on the thick cotton bath mat by the side of the shower. She showed no sign of wanting to flee as I bent down and stroked her and there we sat for the next 15 minutes. It always pulls on my heart strings when I have to place her back into her crate. I wish I had all day to spend with her as I feel the more time invested the better it will be for her. But alas I have to put food on the table (figuratively, not literally – I don’t cook). She gave me a cursory Aussie smile from her crate as I popped a cookie through the crate bars and left the room. As always, when I left her alone, I wonder what our next meeting will bring.

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