She’s better than she used to be. Except when she’s not.

Its our last day of vacation so I’m going to slip in one more post here before we leave the beach tomorrow morning. I haven’t really had much time to write or to read this week. I knew that bringing Ziva along on this trip would mean a lot of work, but even I underestimated just how much time she would require. So, no sitting on the beach reading, which is one of my favorite past times. But I did have a few minutes where I could sit on the beach with her and she would be still (until she decided to dig a hole and get to the cooler sand — then it was “cover your eyes! look out!” and sand went everywhere.) And I certainly got a lot more exercise than I normally would have in a week at the beach. All in all it has been a good week. With some challenges, like this afternoon.

We had left Ziva alone in the house a couple of times this week for short periods of time and she did really well. She’s been so exhausted that she seems to either go into her crate or jump on our bed. But either way, she seemed calm when we got back, and she didn’t get into any trouble. So today we left her again and we did a little sight seeing at a local light house and had a quick sandwich. And again, we got home and everything was fine.  The worst she had done was to drag one of my shoes into her crate. But she didn’t chew it:

shoe in Ziva's crate

After we were home for a while, I thought I would take her back to the beach as a reward for being so good. So, there I am again thinking things that will make no sense to her. By the time we get to the beach, her time alone in the house will be a distant memory. There is no way she connected the two events. This, was a mistake.

We had about a good 10 minutes or so, where she was on the harness at the beach and she was seeming calm enough. Clearly she was excited, but I could call to her when the length was at full distance, and she would come romping back to me. Some pre-teens asked if they could pet her, and she was appropriately excited, but still under control.  And then. sigh. And then she saw a chocolate lab that was sitting calmly under and umbrella, and she just. went. nuts.

One of the things that has gotten me through all the training this past 12 months is the knowledge that she is so much better than she used to be. But today was like we had traveled back to Day One. Ziva barked and lunged and I really struggled to control her. I tried to get her into her behavioral down, but she was in the harness and she was  trying her best to slip out of it. So I was grabbing her gruff, and she was sounding really nasty as she got frustrated, and I start thinking “Oh, great. She’s going to bite me and then she’s going to slip out of her harness. And we lost her dog tags when she was romping with Murphy in the surf.”

Right about this time, a man came sauntering up to us. I figured he was going to offer help, maybe he’s a dog trainer. But no. He just wanted to ask me her name. Hahaha. Yup. He was pleasant enough but it was kind of odd — I felt like maybe was a therapist, to a counselor of some sort? He’s standing there saying very calmly, “They should make certain color collars for rescue dogs so people know.” Me: “Uh huh. ZIVA! Dog!  duh duh duh duh Oouch!”

I finally just told the man that I was taking Zva off the beach for the afternoon, and he said “oh are you going to walk past our dog?” And then I felt pretty good about myself because I said “The black dog? I think your wife — yes? your wife? I think your wife took it back to the house. So we can walk past now.”

Because even if I wasn’t handling Ziva perfectly, at least I was still looking out for her and being aware of my surroundings so that we could get a clean exit. Where upon we got lots of sympathetic smiles and nods from people who had no interest in actually petting Ziva, but who seemed to recognize that we are trying. Then I put Ziva back on her flat collar, off the harness, and had her walk “with me,” and she did great.’

So, clearly we still need to work on the dog reactiveness. But here’s the thing. She played really well with her cousin Murphy, but for a few times when she had to be told “enough.” And when she was with Murphy and Luna and saw another dog, she still barked. But we were able to redirect and bridge her, and she got through those events. The difference today was that she was alone — she still didn’t feel secure with me, the way she did with the other dogs.

Sue walks Ziva on the beach

photo credit: Kim Johnston

But there have been times, oh there have been times. She has run into the surf and she has had no fear of the waves. She has chased seagulls, and she has dug holes in the sand. She has even walked with me on the leash, without pulling. And she has come back to the beach house and slept for 3 hours in the afternoon.

I can’t even imagine what has been going through her head this week. Does she think we’re going to live here now? (I wish, Ziva!  I wish!) The smells, the sounds, the people and the dogs. It must be pretty overwhelming for a sensitive dog. I’m glad she seems to be able to be alone, she knows a safe spot — she’s in her crate now as I write this. And we’ve had some really good times — we’ve even watched the sunset from the rooftop deck together:

Ziva watches the sunset from the rooftopTomorrow we attempt the long ride home again. But this time, I have a feeling she’s going to be sleeping for at least the first part of the trip. Fingers crossed.

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