Usually I don’t blog about private matters, but this is an exception.
Since I adopted my Greek teenage-mom/stray Cretan Hound mix Aliki (Greek for Alice), in this picture still on Crete,
safe but scared of almost everything, my life has changed quite a bit. She wasn’t the first dog in my life – we had dogs at home – but it was the first time I had to deal with a rescue who was afraid of men, most other dogs, cats, and most people in general. Fortunately, she wasn’t afraid of me. So we began our life together. It started with learning how to go for a walk without panicking at every noise and movement. Simultaneously, I had to convince her not to growl and snap at every dog she was afraid of or didn’t like. She hated puppies, which was strange, considering she brought up eight of them in very difficult circumstances. Whatever the reason, it was a line she couldn’t cross as far as I was concerned. If dogs could talk, they would probably say the same thing about me that I heard from little children: she’s kind, but very strict. Which turned out to be the perfect way to deal with Aliki’s fears: correcting her gently but consistently and showering her with praise whenever she did something right. Which was a lot, since she turned out to be very smart. The first thing I taught her was a command that I use whenever she ends up at the wrong side of a tree or other tall obstacle: I say “Uh oh!” and she immediately retraces her steps to “my” side of the obstacle. I only had to explain it to her twice. At home, she settled in easily. Even though she never before had lived in a house she has respect for everything that she thinks belongs to me: she never even attempted to get on the furniture, let alone the bed. Early on, she even stepped back from her food bowl whenever I got near. I helped her change that by petting her while she was eating and encouraging her to continue. The only ‘bad’ thing she did (twice) was jump on the kitchen counter, like a cat, while I wasn’t looking to get to her food that was defrosting there. As luck would have it, though, the second time she did it, I was in the bathroom and I heard the sound of pottery being moved on the counter, so I called “No! Bad dog!” and that was that. She was in awe of my ability to see her even when I wasn’t around and never tried to pull that one again. Little by little she discovered that cuddling and being stroked is fun. Nowadays, when I am working (I work at home) she will be in her bed next to me, and when she feels it’s time for some love, she’ll get up and gently push her beautiful nose against my arm. And she has to reciprocate: whenever I stroke her, especially her chest which is her favorite spot, she will lick my hand as long as I can stand it. It’s kind of gross, but too sweet to tell her not to do it.
Over the almost three years she has been living with me, she has changed enormously:
Here, in August 2013, she is having fun with her best friend Zorba (also from Crete): they love to push each other in the water or keep one another from getting out of the water. She has become much friendlier with other dogs, too, but I still need to keep an eye on her. For some reason, she is scared of all short-nosed, wrinkly-faced dogs. Whether it’s a boxer or a bulldog, a pit bull or even a pug, she will bristle and sometimes growl. The good news is that she doesn’t lunge at dogs she fears anymore. Whether on or off the leash, she will now just try to avoid them generally, which is a huge improvement. She is somewhat aloof in general towards other dogs, with the exception of (Mediterranean) rescues, especially galgos and podencos. It’s as if they smell each other from miles away. I hear the same thing from others with (Mediterranean) rescues. I suppose it’s their body language, which is far more natural than that of dogs who grew up with people.
(to be continued…)