On my third visit with Cedric, I sat on the floor and we embarked on him giving me the sniff test and me gently rubbing the side of his face for short sessions. He took treats more easily, and it seemed that we were starting up where we left off, not starting over.
I decided to move on to hooking the leash to his collar. He stood still for that, and I took the time to loop the leash under his chest and back up through his collar. I knew the extra handling this involved would add to his discomfort, but the prospect of Cedric slipping his leash while we were outside and launching his shy self into the world wasn’t one I was interested in. If this maneuver set us back and delayed going outside, so be it. He stood well enough for it, but when I was done, he backed off to the safety of his bed and averted his gaze.
I averted my gaze as well, and spoke to him quietly. It didn’t take him much time to look me in the eye and let me know he was still game for what came next.
I wasn’t sure that he still wouldn’t decide against bravery, but when I stood up, his response was clear. He stood up too, and joined me at the kennel door. On the walk to the shelter dog park, he was a little swervy on leash, but never tripped me up or jumped up or forged ahead. In the park he did some zoomies, and when I ran, he ran with me. He looked very happy, and even playful for a small window of time.
But his zoomies tended to take him far from me, and he went to the park gate to go back well before my twenty-minute timer would have gone off. My response was to join him at the gate and get him to reengage in play by running so he’d run with me. He was, I’m happy to be able to report, willing to be drawn back into happiness. I take that as a sign that, with experience, Cedric will build up some endurance for having a good time.
Cedric’s one of a group of dogs that were surrendered together. In theory, he’s related to blue-eyed Paisley. With that wiry hair, coloring and size, he certainly looks it. But there are big differences between the two. While Paisley trembled in fear, she stayed close to the kennel door, and when I entered her kennel and squatted down, she quickly came over to snuggle.
When I opened Cedric’s kennel door, however, he backed away, barking. I sat on the floor to see if that might calm him, but he looked so unhappy I decided it was my turn to back off. I left his kennel and told the staff I’d try again next time.
The next visit, I was prepared. I brought an old jacket with me to sit on, and I told the staff I was ready to just sit in his kennel and let him get used to me for our 20 minute visit.
That morning I got to the shelter early, so there were lots of noises as the cleaners went about their work. Cedric paid anxious attention to every clang and bang. But he also sniffed my hat, sniffed my jacket, sniffed my face. Eventually I reached up gently and touched the side of his face. I watched him closely, looking for any signs that this was too much for him. We did okay, and he even leaned into my touch just a tiny bit. At one point the cleaner stopped to tell me he was going to hose down the hallway, and to warn me that Cedric was afraid of the noise. He was afraid of the noise, but he also allowed me to gently touch the side of his face in a massaging stroke while the hallway was being hosed down – a tolerance that I took to mean that he found my presence reassuring.
When the timer went off, I stayed a few more minutes and then got up to leave. We’d had several rounds of Cedric coming over to me, me giving him some time and then giving his face a little massage, and then Cedric going to check out something in the outer kennel. When I stood to leave, Cedric retreated to the outer kennel and I left. I was content that we’d made small but significant progress, and as I walked away I was curious how our next visit would go.