Nicknames: Ernest, E-Man, Ernesto, Nesto, Little Man (& sometimes, just because he looks like a cross between the 2 - Santa's Little Helper & the RCA Dog)
Likes: No longer having to fend for himself & live from day to day, playing with his cousins, going on smelling adventures, chasing stuff & soaking up the sun
Pet-Peeves: Being left alone, & having to wait for things he wants.
Favorite Toy: All toys, including toilet paper rolls, random pieces of paper, Jasmine & Hugo & anything else he might fancy.
Favorite Food: Food? Anything is better than scrounging for yourself.
Favorite Walk: Anywhere so far, but people are still scary, & so are big dogs.
Best Tricks: Surviving all that he has & still being a sweet guy.
Arrival Story: I was leaving a meeting on a reservation and saw this unbelievably bony and injured guy scrounging around for any food. It was just heart wrenching. I put some treats down for him and in a little over an hour, he'd progressed from staying 30 feet away from people, to coming within 4 feet of me. I gave him every last morsel I had, and had to head home, determined I'd come back and get him. I couldn't leave him there to die. It took 3 days, and I got him on April 10.
Bio: It's apparent that this little guy has been through a lot, but during the time that Ernie's been here, he's improved greatly, both physically and emotionally. His leg injury (from a wire being embedded around it) has healed. He's taken well to clicker training and is a smart and quick learner. He's a happy guy who loves to play, but the outside world is still filled with many scary things.
All that was in my mind was “Come on little guy. . . come on,” as I crouched on the back side of a crate, waiting for a skinny feral pup following the trail of hot dogs. It was my third day trying to catch him, and I was determined it’d be the last.
Once he was in the crate and I’d pulled the door shut, I had no idea what lie ahead of me. I didn’t intend on adding a third dog to my home. I had so much on my plate already. I had no idea how difficult it was to find a rescue or no-kill shelter that would take in a feral puppy. I had no clue how much time, energy and effort it would take to help this little guy in moving on from his very difficult start in life. All I wanted was to get him somewhere safe so he could have a chance at life.
The last year has been one of growth, frustration, progress, laughter and patience. Ernie’s challenges are greater than Jasmine & Hugo’s, and intern, have challenged me more than before. I’m proud of the progress he’s made. From a puppy no one could touch, to a dog that I can hold, carry and snuggle. He’s learned so many “tricks,” it’s hard to list them all.
Looking back at my journal entries, I found things I’d forgotten. Personality traits I started to see during the first month he was here are definitely still present:
- He is in deed funny and is quite a clown. For a while, we thought he might be a nerd and considered naming him Milton (a lot of you liked it too).
- He’s still earnest (where his name came from), particularly when it's time to "work."
- He’s smart and quick as ever.
- He doesn't just grumble now when he gets frustrated, now he stamps his front feet and whines.
I noticed a couple of other things too. When I first introduced Ernie to Jasmine & Hugo, I though E-Man loved other dogs. In hindsight, I think Ernie was good with meeting H&J because they had a gradual introduction. They smelled each other on our clothes for days. Heard each other, then saw each other briefly, then for longer periods of time. Hugo and Jasmine practiced “look at that” when Ernie was next door. It didn't take long for E-Man (who was having major separation anxiety) to see we lived with J&H, so that was additional inspiration. When I look back at pictures from the day they met, I can also see that Ernie (who was only 20-some pounds) was cautious/nervous with them, although happy too.
In less than a month, he first started showing signs of resource guarding and fear reactivity. He’d found his voice and started barking at scary things. In 2 months, he’s exaggerated startle response/PTSD began surfacing. My vet suggested that behavior modification medication might help E-Monster. I wanted to continue and pursue with his training and try more “natural” methods first. Looking back, I can see how much he grew, and I’m even more sure that we’ve hit a plateau in his learning and conquering his fears.
Taking stock in all that’s happened and working on Ernie’s new behavior modification plan, I'm looking forward to his continuing progress in the coming months. As my trainer/behaviorist says, "He's got a lot of potential!"
I have to go back and add some thing that have been happening to E-Man over the last few months!
One of the biggest is that he's had his first big snow! And then a second, and a third! At first, he had a hard time figuring out how to walk through the stuff. He was awkward and wobbly, using his tale as a counter balance. But then he got his snow groove going, and now he cruises through, hot on the trail of whatever smells he can find! Last week, I could see that he'd had enough of all the snowfall. We had 30 inches on the ground and he just seemed tired of it. He plays in it, runs around and goes on his walks, but he's not a snow dog who loves the white stuff like his cousins are. He's just not built for it.
This week he surprised me with a new "trick." I was working on the computer to finish something in time for a deadline, which was delaying the dogs getting their breakfast. Each dog came and reminded me that it was time for "comida"; Hugo came and nudged his nose under my arm, staring at me. Jasmine came up and put her front feet on my chair and licked my face. Ernie came and stood on the little step near the chair, stared at me and whined a little. Then he got down, hopped up with his front feet on the top of his crate, grabbed his food dish, carried it across the room, dropped it on the floor in front of me and stared at me.
After I stopped laughing, I got to feeding the beasties.