Do you know what the title of this post represents, I mean, other than of course my undying love for this furry beast? It’s also the title of one of the few songs that help Ziva calm down when we’re in the car. So yeah, Ziva has her own playlist, and it’s very heavy on Adele. “Sweetest Devotion” starts playing and Ziva stops whining and puts her head on the arm rest. I can sometimes get her to expand her tastes to a little Amy Winehouse — “Valerie” has a nice melody. And I recently added Tash Sultana’s “Jungle,” and she seems to enjoy that one a lot. But mostly, it’s “Hello” on an endless loop.
We have been traveling with Ziva in a crate in the back of the SUV for many months because, if you have read the early days of this blog you will remember, a year ago she would be so wound up and excited in the car that it was impossible to drive. She would spin herself around on her seatbelt leash and practically choke herself, or, she would stand with her mouth at my right ear and bark, and bark, and bark. Good times.
But recently we had to take the crate out of the car in order to move some furniture, and I thought I would give it a try with Ziva in that back seat again. We’ve done a few short trips since then and she has done pretty well. She still gets excited, but it’s nowhere near the previous level. And if she sees a dog out the window, she still barks, but she is able to get calm again — a year ago that was not happening. A year ago she would just continue to wind herself up. And up. And up. I thank Conditioned Relaxation behavior modification for this change (and of course the wonderful trainers we have worked with for the past year!). Ziva has always loved to go for a car ride — in fact it’s the only way we were able to catch her the couple of times that she escaped the yard. (The fencing has been repaired!). She ran around the neighborhood at the speed of light, and there was no way we could grab her, or get her to come to us. But drive up in the car, fling the door open and say “Wanna go for a ride?????” And she would hop right in. She likes to sit and look out the window, and she doesn’t really like to sit in the crate. So I am glad that it seems like we can move her back to the back seat and keep working on her being calm. Adele is fine with me. The Enya was a little much.
Anyway, its been longer between posts than I intended. But as I’ve mentioned before: when life gets busy and it’s a matter of writing about the dog or spending time with the dog, no offense but she comes first. Right now, it’s Saturday morning and we are back home after a successful time at Pack to Basics and Behavior Modification classes. Ziva did really, really well, and is now enjoying a well earned nap:
I just want to tell you how great she did this morning. We haven’t been to either of these classes in a few weeks, and there were a couple of new high energy dogs today. One in particular was a challenge to Ziva because it has so much energy. She’s a small Lab mix named Oreo, and boy does she remind me of Ziva 12 months ago! During Pack to Basics she and Ziva got a little too close for each other’s comfort and both made some ugly noises, but it was easily dispersed and they didn’t pay each other any mind after that. But what really amazed me was during the Behavior Mod class. We did “doggy yoga” to start, and we ended up being just a few feet away from Oreo. The way this “yoga” works, is that the dogs have to face away from the other dogs (i.e., their back is to the other dogs), and they have to remain calm. We started out with Ziva sitting to my left, and Oreo about 5 feet behind us. Oreo had a really hard time sitting, and she definitely did not want to sit to the left of her mom. She whined, and she kept getting up. Her mom kept putting her back in sit, and she kept getting up. My heart went out to that mom. It’s so hard to stay calm and keep putting the dog back into a “sit,” over and over again.
And do you know what Ziva did? NOTHING! oh my freaking god. She sat and she looked at me, and sometimes she turned her head and looked at Oreo, and then I would do bridging (“That’s a dog, dih dih dih dih, Yes!”), and she would return her focus to me and lose interest in Oreo, who was still whining and constantly getting up.
It was so incredible, that later, when we left the building, I saw Oreo’s mom and I told her “Hang in there — it really does get better! A year ago, this one was just like that!” And she seemed amazed and said “Really? Because there are just some days ….” And I replied “Oh, I know! Believe me, I know — all that energy!” I also told her that Ziva definitely still has her moments but ….
See, when you have a reactive dog, or a dog that is adrenalized so they are almost uncontrollable, it can be so emotionally difficult. You constantly feel that other people are judging you. It can be a vicious cycle, where the dog misbehaves in public and you get nervous and upset, so then you go out in public and the dog senses that you’re nervous and upset so they become nervous and upset. And misbehave. So it takes a lot of work to just keep going, and taking the dog for a walk even if strangers are looking at you spraying vinegar on your dog’s nose while it barks at another dog across the street. Or you’re standing on her leash while she’s in a behavioral down and still whining at the dog over there. It doesn’t look like you are doing anything, but of course you are doing exactly what the trainer has taught you. And over time it works!
I clearly remember in the early days when some of the other dog parents would say to me “She’s doing so much better!” (Shout out to Bruno’s mom, who always said encouraging things, even when Ziva was being far from perfect.) I feel lucky to have found a community where there is so much support. It is a place where Ziva clearly feels safe — and so do I! And that means we both feel confident to push ourselves. For us, that can mean just going for a hike in the woods, knowing it is quite possible we will encounter another dog. That may seem like a tiny challenge, but trust me, its enough to keep many an owner and dog at home. And that’s a shame. Because, this: