September 28th 2009 3:07 pm
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Since bringing Penny into our lives a few months ago, we've been delighted to see Penny come out of her shell bit-by-bit. Initially, she was just too shy to appreciate toys and most of the squeakers scared her, anyway.
It wasn't long after she arrived that Joe and I were halfheartedly entertaining one another while watching a movie (it is a testament to how wonderful this movie must have been that I remember neither the title, nor what it was about, as little as three months later!) by playing catch with a stuffed chocolate-covered strawberry that we gave Karley for her Valentine's Day gift last year. It wasn't squeaking, because we were only lightly throwing it to one another across the span of the living room and perhaps that was why it caught Penny's attention so thoroughly. Or perhaps it was the brilliant red color??
Whatever the reason, Penny, at first curled up beneath the coffee table, began to perk up as she watched that strange red blur zooming back and forth across the room. It was just her eyes at first, crossing from side-to-side, like the subject of an experiment in hypnotherapy. Then her ears lifted, and then her head, until, in a burst of excitement she tried to stand up, knocking her head against the table.
Seeing her interest, we nodded and shrugged to one another, pretending not to notice her there (direct stares were still terrifying for Penny at that point--truth be told, they're still a bit nerve-wracking for her today) and continued our game. Several long minutes passed, in which nothing really changed, except Penny was obviously building herself up for some great feat of bravery.
When it finally happened we were both shocked and delighted. It came in the form of a mad scramble from beneath the coffee table and up, nearly onto, the ottoman where Joe was resting his feet. But the strawberry was already on its way back across the room to me. Penny was puzzled by its sudden disappearance for a moment and then suddenly excited and dazzled when it reappeared on her side of the room in Joe's hand.
As she learned to follow it across the room with her eyes, gradually working up to a full-on slide-across-the-room, diving, lunging, pouncing, racing, scrambling kind of game in which there was lots of laughter, some of it hysterical, and very few good catches, Penny discovered that she LOVES toys.
A lot of dogs out there disembowel their toys on a regular basis, but Penny isn't one of them. Except on the rare occasion when she gets frenzied, she treats each of her toys with the utmost of reverence. She mouths them delicately and slowly and places them in her bed so tenderly--it's easy to imagine her caring for puppies. Once more, if any of them get stepped on or nudged so that they make noise of any kind, Penny will come running to make sure they're all right and gently remove them to her bed for cuddling.
Over the past few months, she has developed clear preferences for her toys. She likes rounded stuffed toys, typically about the size of a cantaloupe. Those that squeak are the best, but she has a few (her chipmunk and a stuffed ball) that don't. We keep a couple upstairs for her to cuddle with during the night, but her largest collection she keeps in her cubby in the office.
Although I admit to being responsible for the large number of stuffed sheep currently in our collection (I maintain that Border Collies--even non-working ones--should have sheep!) it is funny that Penny should pick out four different stuffed sheep as her favorites. These she keeps in the office--her own little flock--which she tends to expertly.
Karley has never been much for toys, but, seeing Penny's joy and our delight for it, Karley has developed a fetish for stealing Penny's sheep and putting them in her own bed (a.k.a. the loveseat in the living room). She's quite bold and sneaky about it and will take them right out of Penny's grasp to hoard for herself. She can also been quite rough with them, which disturbs Penny greatly. We often find ourselves diving after Karley to steal a pilfered toy: (
Today, however, they both had a great time. We haven't bought a great deal of new toys lately. A stuffed sheep I found at a local store (which turned out to be a great purchase--one of the easiest to squeak toys I've ever encountered) and a variety of balls, which we've been working on Penny's fetching skills with, and a stuffed squid I just couldn't resist. So, although Karley is well-familiar with the excitement of 'new toys' (new toys are, in fact, the only toys she regularly plays with and/or shows any excitement for) Penny hasn't really had any opportunity to enjoy the spoils of our shopping trips.
Today, however, she's been given a real treasure. We found a large trash bag in the basement, shoved into a back corner of the storage area, stuffed with old toys from before our move last December. I don't know how they were set aside and forgotten (you'd think we would notice the collection decreasing suddenly by one-third or so, wouldn't you?) but when I found them I instantly remembered them and rushed upstairs to show the dogs.
They were so excited. They could barely contain themselves and both sat right beside me, Karley stomping her feet and Penny whimpering, excited to see each new toy as it came out of the bag. They were really quite good about the whole thing. It seemed as though each toy was interesting to only one dog--either Karley would make a mad dash for it when I tossed it out or Penny would snatch it right out of my hands, too eager to wait.
They did squabble once, with Karley the clear victor (Penny's going to have to develop a stronger backbone if she ever expects to win anything Karley actually wants) and proud new owner of a stuffed octopus. She's been carrying it around all afternoon, and is quite obviously hoping Penny will make a grab for it, so she can "win" it again, but so far, Penny is far too enamored of her own collection of new toys.
As of right now, Penny is sleeping, in her favorite place under Joe's desk in the office. Her head is resting on a stuffed caterpillar, there is a cow (still mooing) at her feet, two sheep, a giraffe and a ball close by. I can't help smiling as I look at her, so peaceful--I hope she's happy.
September 26th 2009 2:29 pm
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Okay, a lot of you out there are probably thinking I'm crazy by now. Who, after all, gets excited when their dog poops outside? I do, of course!
But, to be fair, you must know that this is a very big deal for Penny (and us!). It's been months and this is the very first time she's actually pooped outside.
Our enthusiasm for the moment was dampened only slightly by the fact that she had eaten her dinner outside and then not been allowed back in for nearly four hours. Sounds like entrapment, eh? But in this case, entrapment was a good thing. Penny was well-rewarded with treats and praise, cuddles and kisses--to the point that she seem greatly bewildered by the ruckus we were making.
September 21st 2009 10:39 am
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We're taking just one day at a time right now. After a terrible week with Penny last week, we've seen some small improvements in the last two days and we feel, for the first time in almost two weeks, we can safely relax.
After steadily progressing and improving both socially and mentally, Penny suddenly began regressing. She had mastered going up and down stairs, eating with other animals in the room, and bravely made it out the backdoor at least half the time she tried. For Penny, that was amazing!
But one morning Penny couldn't seem to find her way out into the hall or down the stairs. Instead, she ran back and forth between her "spot" in the bedroom and the top of the stairs, clearly panicked. We couldn't identify the problem--we shut Ophelia and Henry in the second bedroom, but that helped none at all. Eventually, we herded her out of the bedroom and pulled the door closed behind her, limiting her pacing room to the hallway and landing.
Karley's influence didn't seem to help either, which was unusual, but, we did, after much cajoling and soothing, get Penny to settle down and Joe carried her downstairs. Of course, once on the first floor, Penny made it clear she had no intention of going outside. She paced from living room to dining room, in her usual pattern, whined a bit, and skittered across the floor several times when cats approached her, but did no more than glance at us when we tried to talk her out the backdoor.
This pattern continued, in varying degrees for more than a week. She seemed to be cycling through good and bad days, though none of them were great. We did our best to soothe her, while still trying to maintain her routine, but there were several days when the only method of getting her outside meant she had to be let out the front door.
Before this, her progress on housetraining was questionable at best, but even that has taken a hard hit this past week. We gave up on chastising her for going potty in the house and contented ourselves with 'at least it was on the tile.' There was simply no way to get her outside and in her fragile mental state, she couldn't seem to handle loud noises of any kind or being scolded.
There were several times we had to consider again the possibility of Penny going to sanctuary. We're taking her to the vet this week for a very thorough check-up--we're starting to believe she has a head injury (perhaps a tumor?) putting pressure on her brain and causing this erratic, seemingly uncontrollable behavior.
The last two days have been better. We were able to get her into the car not once, but twice(!) yesterday without much trouble. She made it out the backdoor every time she tried and did well again this morning. We're hoping we've cleared whatever rough patch we had encountered.
For now, we're going slow. We'll continue to feed her in the office for the next few days, and then gradually work toward getting her to eat in the dining room again--we're not concerned with getting her to eat in the kitchen yet; I don't see it being accomplished in the foreseeable future. But, while we've conceded the point on dinnertime, we will continue to insist she go out the backdoor and just hope for the best.
If you're out there reading this--keep your fingers crossed for Penny's health--we're not ready to lose our sweet girl.