On the second Friday of each month I go back five years to pick out one of my favorite blog posts for that month and repost it here on Flashback Friday.
This post was originally written in March, 2004.
Pappy Learns to Play
Autumn 2002, we spotted a little adult Papillon on Petfinder who needed a home. (Warning: Petfinder is one of the saddest sites on the internet. If you're soft hearted for animals, don't go there unless you want to add to your family.)
Pappy was 250 miles away living in a foster home. The details of his history are unknown. Unpleasant things had happened to him as evidenced by his broken ear, the scar across his back, and his tendency to run and hide. He didn't know how to play.
Rescue groups are usually very careful about placing their dogs. I understand. It may be the last chance a dog has to find a stable, loving home.
It took over a month to get approved to adopt Pappy. We had to fill out a seven page application, provide personal references, vet references, and have a home inspection.
Finally the day arrived when we could meet Pappy in person and bring him home. He came into the house and displayed his fear by peeing on at least a dozen upright objects and running under the bed. That night he climbed on top of the bed and slept at our feet. It was a beginning.
Most rescue dogs come with "issues". Pappy was no exception. He didn't know he was safe and loved. He was a long way from being comfortable enough to play.
The first month we loved him when he would allow it. The rest of the time we left him alone to get used to his new home. Then, he started doggy school.
His first homework assignment was an exercise created just for him. He was to be held and petted by person A while person B fed him little pieces of turkey dog. It worked. He started to learn about love and trust and letting us hold him. He still wasn't ready to play.
Whenever we played tug with Sunny, our other dog, Pappy headed under the bed. By the summer of 2003, he would watch the tug game from the far sidelines. When we tried to get him to play, he acted like he didn't know what to do. One day he grabbed a toy snake in his mouth and ran under the table and shook it back and forth. He wouldn't hold onto it when we tried to take the other end, but it was a start. It was almost like playing. Very tentative playing.
Pappy is very intelligent. He excelled at doggy school beginner class and intermediate obedience class, so he was promoted to advanced class where the dogs do agility. Time to play!
Oops! Pappy didn't know how to play. The first week was awful. I dragged him around the agility course three times. He was so upset that I wasn't sure I could bear to bring him back for the second week.
Week two he was excited to go to doggy school. He really wanted to be there, but he was still afraid to do the agility course. I dragged him through again.
The third week was about the same as the second. Gail the trainer coached me to have patience. We could both see that he wanted to do it. I decided to give it a little more time.
Week four was a miracle. It was as though he'd been pep talking himself all week. "Pappy, you know you can do that stuff and it looks like a lot of fun. You have all the love you need and now it's time to play!"
He was very excited to be there. He relaxed and went sailing over the hurdles, through the tunnels, up and down the A-frame, and through the hoops. Pappy was playing and loving it!
Now Pappy will tentatively play tug with his snake. He always acts like he's thrilled to be trying, so we keep working on it.
It's only been sixteen months since he joined the family. He still has more to learn about living in a home where he's loved and where it's OK to play.
Follow up, March 2009
Pappy is totally relaxed now. He knows he is loved and cared for.
He loves to play, he still does agility, and he never goes under the bed.