Welcome Home, Shylah: Let’s Try This Again
The all-day rain matches my mood. I am disappointed, upset and exhausted. I have a massive headache that two lots of Advil hasn’t touched. Shylah, my wonderful rescue puppy, has been with me exactly three and one half months. Yet today, Gerri and I are pretending that she just arrived. Welcome home, Shylah: Take Two.
A Brief Recap
Readers of this site will remember that Shylah is a thirteen-month-old rescue from Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She spent the first two months of her life on the streets, the next eight months in a shelter. I have described her variously as shy, timid, fearful, nervous, sensitive, and uncertain. Those descriptors were most apt the first forty-eight hours with me when she wouldn’t get out of her bed. They still held the entire first month when everything, from wind to pinecones, scared her. Who am I kidding? Shylah was still timid, fearful etcetera on April 10th when she hid in the woods and it took me six hours to find her and bring her home.
I decided to have Shylah off leash while I was working in the yard. Every 10-15 minutes for three and a half hours, I walked to the lower meadow, called her name, and watched her run toward me or poke her head up from the long grass. While she never came right to me, I was super happy that she stayed close and responded quickly.
My happiness turned to frustration when I struggled for almost two hours to get Shylah to come to me so we could go into the house. We had a more serious repeat of the problem that evening when Shylah snapped the clip from her long leash and refused to come to me as night started to fall. I finally had to call Linda (dog behaviorist friend) and ask for help. She brought over a couple of dogs in hopes that Shylah would want to be near them. Even that didn’t work. Both times, I was able to leash Shylah only because she was tired of running.
Progress of My Quirky Rescue Puppy
I don’t want one day of difficulty to overshadow all of the great progress that Shylah has made. Just recently, she had the opportunity for a play date with her sister, Lexi, who was adopted by a couple that live an hour west of me. Seeing Shylah and Lexi reconnecting and playing together was truly wonderful.
I am delighted to report that Shylah:
- looks taller, but friends say that’s because she is now spending more time standing than crouching. She is generally far more comfortable, especially when outdoors and even in the wind.
- has put on a bit of weight, thanks to four or five cups of kibble consumed every evening (as long as it is on a placemat, not in a bowl).
- walks beautifully on leash about 85% of the time.
- makes extended eye contact and enjoys being petted by me.
- uses her nose to sniff her environment, and eats grass like a normal dog.
- keeps tabs on my location when she is off leash. She will return to me every few minutes when we are walking with other dogs.
- fears the motion of water as she laps it from a dish. She attempts to drink while simultaneously backing away from the bowl. It’s messy!
- is learning to handle scary situations, such as clothes flapping on a line.
- isn’t the least bit bothered by thunder or fireworks, but quakes at the closing of a screen door. Quirky indeed!
What I have learned is that, three and a half months in, Shylah is still not comfortable in our home. That’s sad. So we are starting from the beginning. At Linda’s suggestion, Shylah is tethered/leashed to one of us throughout each day. When we move, she moves. She’s there when we work in the kitchen, change our clothes, brush our teeth. Tethering, also known as umbilical cord training, is used to housetrain puppies, but I’m trying it to deepen the connection with Shylah, get her used to following, and help her be comfortable in the house beyond her beds.
Work with my rescue puppy is all-consuming, but I’m still so happy that she is here. I will provide another update six weeks from now, when Shylah has been with me for five months.
Have you any experience with a rescue puppy? Did your puppy progress and regress for a while? War stories, especially with happy endings, are welcomed!