Whilst Zac was slowly familiarising himself with his new surroundings, I was impatiently waiting for our 2-week walk curfew to end so I could try to get him far enough from the ‘safe zone’ of our house to something that might actually resemble a true ‘dog walk.’ Meanwhile, Zac had discovered the pleasure of sleeping diagonally across a luxurious fleece-covered bed! It was such a pleasure in fact that he didn’t want to move…at all, and so, there he stayed. I had followed RANA’s expert advice and provided a makeshift den, and a commercially-produced one as soon as it arrived. He was supposed to feel safe in it and retreat there when scared. Zac was unimpressed!
He cast a passing gaze across both and turned away, as if to say, “really, that’s what you think I want to be in?!” We attempted to entice him with comfy blankets, dinner and even cheese but, no, he refused to ever set foot in either, much preferring to hide under his king-sized bed if he felt afraid. Prince Zac has his standards we have to understand! He stayed on the bed 24/7 for the first few weeks which worried me greatly even though I was told this was to be expected. He needed to process all the changes. Everything he’d ever known was gone, and although he was far better off here, he had to be sure and to realise this was now ‘home’ and forever. The mantra from all articles and all advice echoed round my head daily, “leave him to come to you” But, he didn’t, he wouldn’t, he just lay there with eyes glazed over in…boredom?!?? It was hard to see him this way and I just wanted to make him feel better, but how??? Patience, was always the answer I got. Hmmph! I’m known for not having a lot of that…but I had to try.
The Struggle to get Zac Out into the Freezer-Garden to Empty His Bladder
The next issue was…bladder control!! Crazy bladder control! He had learnt very quickly what “wee wee” meant and he knew within a couple of days that the garden was the place to go. However, he didn’t WANT to go out there and would point blank refuse to go out in that fridge/freezer-resembling mud pit that my husband and I prefer to call a garden (this was in March, after all). Zac would go for marathon bladder holding sessions if left to his own devices, so much so that on one occasion he held on for 18 hours! I broke at this point, I was terrified that he would damage his bladder or kidneys. He would not budge for love, money or cheese!
I persuaded my ever patient husband that Zac’s health was at risk and persuaded him to carry our stubborn boy down the stairs and out into the garden. Suffice to say, we were NOT met with gratitude for our interference! Zac stood at the door demanding with his feet and claws to be let back in. I had to go out with him and remind him every time he was distracted by the tiniest movement or sound that it was wee wee time and eventually, he would go.
This became a familiar process—Zac hated being carried as much as we hated having to carry him. He would go rigid and then make himself as wide as he could, splaying his legs as we attempted to manoeuvre him past the coat rack, brief elation flashing across the face of the victorious participant of the coat rack battle. Zac and I shared many trips together to the freezer-garden in those first few weeks, often in the middle of an icy night, me in my dressing gown and Zac in his jumper, both wishing to be back in the warm.
Slowly, he seemed to realise we were doing this for his own good and eventually he began to respond when we called him down. He also got braver and would go out alone unless it was particularly windy.
Teaching Zac to Use the Doggy Door by Demonstrating it Myself
I felt the time had come to try and encourage him to enjoy the freedom to make choices of his own. The dog flap was the next hurdle…a big one as it happened. He refused to try it, cheese failed again. I even enlisted the help of Mitzy, a sprocker spaniel I walk on Sundays for the Cinnamon Trust, to demonstrate how simple the dog flap was to use. Zac took one look at Mitzy and took himself back up to bed, he didn’t entertain her long enough to get a dog flap demo! There was only one thing for it, I would have to go through it and demonstrate myself. I went into the garden with him and when he was ready to go back inside I took him to the flap, and making sure the neighbours weren’t watching, I called him close and pushed the door. I crawled through, holding the flap up with my foot as I scraped myself along the floor. I looked back, I’m sure I saw a softer look of disdain, I think I saw more of a “well, she’s obviously a mentally challenged lunatic but she’s MY mentally challenged lunatic, what exactly is she trying to tell me!!???” look on that sweet, confused face BUT, he followed me through!!! Yayyyyy, I rewarded him with cheese that he wanted and a fuss…that he may or may not have wanted. I had to do this a couple more times but fortunately for my bruised thighs, he was a fast learner and we had cracked it!!
He uses his brain so impressively when he wants to. He STILL won’t use the flap to go out and has absolutely no reservations about waking me up at 3 a.m. with a poke in the face from a clawy paw when he feels it’s wee wee time. I do usually get a hug and kiss as a reward now though, the most rewarding hugs and kisses ever! And at least he chooses to do this instead of crossing his legs for 18 hours at a time, that’s a huge step…so, on we continue with our snail-paced but rewarding progress together, me and MY boy!
Sam has always been passionate about animals and spent the first decade of her professional life working as a veterinary nurse for the PDSA. Her heart has always been firmly owned by the canines of the world. She has had dogs throughout her life and has taken a huge amount of emotional reward from taking on rescue dogs, particularly favouring the overlooked and ‘forgotten dogs.’
Sam is a volunteer for the Cinnamon Trust and, since Zac’s arrival in December 2017, has also become involved with RANA, helping to raise awareness via their blog about the work they do by sharing her experiences with Zac and the plight of other RANA dogs still waiting for their happy ever afters.