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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,

Aliki op Kreta

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:

IMG_0008

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…)

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4 Comments

    • Loren-Paul Caplin
    • Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm
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    I like Aliki!!! As someone who raised a few ultra neurotic rescue cats over the last 20 years — you’re doing a tremendous job!! There’s a wonderful feeling from it all. And, more than cats, Aliki seems to be getting better and better. About two years ago, after our last kitty, Pookie, died, Jenne sought out and found two less neurotic rescues: two brothers — named Pablo and Chico…. today, though they are still a bit scarred of people, they have become extremely cuddly around us — and very loving! hugs, lpc

    ps: here’s Chico

    Loren-Paul Caplin StoryTime Productions 917 379-8883 lpcaplin@gmail.com http://www.lorenpaulcaplin.com http://www.newyorkscriptconsultants.com @lpcaplin

  1. Dear Loren,
    So we have more in common than just a love of screenwriting and film. I don’t think it is me who did the tremendous job, though. The thing with traumatized cats and dogs is, you have to explain to them that the cage they are in isn’t real, it’s made of fear and trauma. Show them a way out and they’ll grab that chance. The problem is they don’t understand language, so you have to explain it in non-verbal ways (like many things in film). The door I made for Aliki in her behavior towards other dogs consisted of some guidelines: you can’t snap, lunge or growl, but you can focus on something else (meaning I distracted her with food whenever she would bristle). After that, it was up to her to decide if ignoring the other dog was a good idea. And yes, it was! Why? Because it’s a way of dealing that is stress-free and also leads to compliments and treats. Cats are harder to deal with, though, because their communication with us is a little more limited than that of dogs. But still, when I lived in New York last time, there was a traumatized cat (declawed, only one tooth left) in my apartment. So I allowed it into my room and after a while it wanted to be stroked and later on even play. It was just so frustrated about losing its claws. It’s a cruel thing to do and completely unnecessary. I always taught my cats to retract their claws when playing with humans and they really get that. Anyway: I noticed your cats always left the room whenever the screenwriting gang was there. But that’s okay: I know they aren’t afraid of you, so they get their cuddles and that’s all they need. If they want to expand their circle of human friends, they will. I think they are perfectly happy with you and Jenna!

  2. Hi! Thank you for sharing your story with Aliki. She must be a wonderful dog.

    I got my first rescue dog Sylvi last summer from Crete to Finland. I have later find out she must be Cretan hound mix too. From the beginning she has been a amazing climber and jumper- and a clever food thief .. Little shy is still is with new people but all the time she is getting braver. She love to take naps on the sofa, play with my terrier and cat and specially she loves extra long walks on fields. I think she never get’s tired, she is always ready to go little farther. We have also lot of hares on the fields and they drives she really crazy, she just want to chase them more than anything else. Luckily she haven ‘t got any. Anyway we love her a lot and I’m every day so happy she is now in safe and enjoying a good dog life and care in a real home. That’s something every dog deserves.

    • Dear Ulla,
      Yes, she sounds a lot like Aliki: climbing, jumping, running like crazy and long, long walks. Thank you for your comment!


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