There are a lot of differences between these little guys and humans - one being that they live much more "in the moment" than we do. Maybe this enables our canine buddies in rescue to "forget" their old lives and move on to happier new ones, which can only be a good thing. But I have to say...people who think dogs don't have memories at all are nuts.
Klausie's memory is sharp as a tack. He remembers every little thing that has ever happened to him (a slip on a hardwood floor? now they're terrifying! - a puppy that nipped him once a little too hard? puppies are SCARY!) He's internalized every remotely negative interaction he's ever had with another dog, and for the past two years has become increasingly reactive to other dogs on leash - especially big ones. While I plan to enlist the help of a trainer soon to help me work on desensitizing and socializing him, our plan of attack for the time being has basically been avoidance. I give him a bit of freedom to encounter dogs his size or smaller and watch him closely for a reaction (usually with small dogs he behaves well), but big dogs are almost guaranteed to turn him into a lunging, snarling beast (yes, we're still talking about a little black pug here - I do see the humor in this) - so when we see a large dog, we cross the street.
Well, this morning on our walk, we encountered an old buddy of Klausie's - one we used to see in the neighborhood back in his puppy days. Lenny is a large black dog, possibly some kind of lab/chow mix. We hadn't seen him in three whole years.
Lenny was raised by pugs, LOVES PUGS, and will drag his owner across the street to encounter a pug. (Much like myself - ha!)
So I see and recognize Lenny and his owner from across the street, but my plan is just to keep walking. Lenny is a BIG BOY. Lenny is not Klausie's type these days, so to speak. But Lenny had other plans. He saw my pugs, and he came a-pulling! Across the street they came, Lenny's owner trying to hold him back but giving him lead, apologizing but saying "He just loves pugs. He's SO friendly." Klausie was crouched down in the grass, pulling his "cat stalking a bird" pose. I only had a few seconds to make a decision - either pick up the pug, or let him do his thing. I was nervous, but my instinct told me that he'd be ok - that this was a friendly dog, and it was important to give him the opportunity to have a positive encounter with a large dog.
And he did GREAT! That little boy was wagging his tail and pouncing around like a puppy! I KNOW he remembered Lenny. And Lenny remembered him, too. His owner said he never pulls like that, but he just HAD to come see us. :)
It just gave me hope. I was so proud of my little boy. If I can help build his confidence back up, one positive encounter at a time, maybe some day we'll be able to have walks that aren't so stressful and anxiety-provoking. Maybe I'll be able to let Natty socialize without having to worry about Klausie breaking up the party.
And if not, well...at least we know we've got one more friend in the neighborhood. :)
(Klausie in the 'hood, circa 2008. Can you believe that harness still fits him today?)
I'm so proud of you little buddy. We'll keep taking baby steps, together. :)
2 years ago