The long-awaited event finally arrived: Rocky’s first sleepover!
Rocky has been so excited for the past few weeks, wanting to come home with us. Each time I leave her at the kennel, it gets harder and harder, because she so clearly wants to get in the truck with me at the end of our training session. So I’d like to tell you that thanks to all these hours of work, the entire experience went off without a hitch. But that would be more than an exaggeration. It would be a bold-face lie.
OK, parts of it were fantastic. Really fantastic. Rocky and Malaki got along great. No animosity at all. They were both off leash the entire visit (Tuesday 7 p.m. to Wednesday 1 p.m.), and had not a single incident. She and Malaki raced around in the dog yard, and it appears they may become buddies. Won’t that be grand?
But as soon as we arrived, Rocky went into cat obsession again, despite our training session with Bailey. It wasn’t quite as bad as before, but she was jacked up and fixated. Part of it is that this is all so new. She’s been living at a kennel. So I thought, “I know. I’ll take her for a walk to burn off some of that excess energy.”
Good idea, but not completely thought out. She was thrilled to go for a walk. But as soon as we hit the road outside our house, I realized our nemeses: bunnies. We live in a subdivision where each house has over an acre of land, so it feels very rural. Within a few feet, the little desert rabbits that abound here started popping out left and right. On our twenty-five minute walk, we must have seen at least two dozen, maybe more. Rocky went crazy, straining at the leash. To save my left shoulder from being wrenched out of the socket, I had to pass the leash behind my hips, and brace with my full body to stop her pulling. We also had quail, doves, and lizards to contend with. It was a marathon session of “AHHT!” “Leave it!” and “Easy.”
The good news is that Rocky did not respond at all to the barking dogs we passed, or the cars, or the people. Which lets me know that this is about exposure. She has been exposed to dogs, cars, and people. But not to bunnies, quails, or lizards. More walks ahead.
Back at the house, exhausted, I got water for myself, and watched Rocky tank up on water. Laurie at American Service Dogs had told me that Rocky hadn’t eaten much of her dinner, so I tried to offer her some of her dry food, but she wouldn’t eat. I eventually offered her some from my hand. She ate a couple of handfuls, but that was all.
We continued to keep an eye on cat interactions. Dozer strolled around in Rocky’s presence throughout the visit, and batted her whenever she got pushy. Kenji also allowed close contact, and bopped her on the nose when Rocky was a little too inquisitive. Little Bit hid the whole time – but that’s Little Bit. It takes her a while with everyone. There was one incident in the dog yard, late at night, when Rocky was way out in the distance, and she spotted Dozer and took off in pursuit. Dozer ran full out for the dog door. I grabbed Rocky right at the entrance and slammed her down, with a huge, loud “AHHT!” I’m hoping the message got across.
She also had some really nice moments of being relaxed and calm. We all sat in the living room and watched TV for an hour, Rocky lying peacefully right at my side. She spent some time resting beside me in my writing studio. Yes, very good.
And at bedtime, believe it or not, Rocky was in a pile of bodies on our king-sized bed:. me and Sabrina, Ripley and Malaki, and Rocky. And then who comes prancing into the mix, but Dozer! Rocky became alert, then realized, “Oh. I guess it’s just that cat.” She went back to sleep. We’re going to be able to work this out.
The next day, I tried to offer her breakfast, and she again refused to eat. Then Sabrina said, “Ha! No wonder she’s not hungry! Did you look at the cat food bowl?” Last time Rocky visited, we discovered she is slender enough to go through the cat door into the bathroom where we were keeping the cat food. So we were in the process of moving the feeding station. I thought Sabrina had already moved all of the food. But she had left the large bowl of dry food in that room. And sometime when we were not looking, Rocky had gone in and eaten the entire bowl!
Since she had no need for breakfast, I took her for a second walk. It was essentially a replay of the day before, except I remembered to add in some of the movement work heeling techniques, doing right circles, left circles, right abouts, left abouts, which forced her to pay attention to me periodically instead of the bunnies and birds.
At 9 a.m. a workman came over to give us an estimate about repairing the trellis in our atrium. We were sitting with the dogs on the front patio area of our house when he arrived. The patio is bordered by a four foot rock wall. As he pulled up in his truck, Rocky leapt up onto the top of the rock wall! Sabrina stood up and yelled, and Rocky jumped back down, on our side. OK, now we know she can jump over. Great. (The dog yard has a six-foot chain link fence.)
I thought the workman was only here to talk ideas and give a quote. I took Ripley and Rocky into my writing studio, and left Sabrina with him. Both dogs were relaxing quietly with me, while I did some work. I vaguely became aware of a drilling/sawing sound, but it didn’t fully register. Suddenly Sabrina came to my door, and said, “Where’s Rocky?” I said, “What?” She said, “The front door was open.”
The workman had actually started to take down the trellis, using an electric saw, and the sound frightened Rocky. Sabrina and he were removing lumber through the door, and had left it open. I hadn’t noticed that Rocky had left the studio. I started frantically searching first the house, and then the backyard, while Sabrina went out to the front, both of us calling her name. When I fully realized she was not in the house or in our yard, I panicked. She wasn’t wearing any ID tags or anything. I ran out the front door, and heard Sabrina yelling for her. As I got to the end of the driveway, Sabrina said, “Rocky! Come here!” I could tell by her tone of voice that she could see Rocky. I looked up and saw my dog, two houses down the road. I yelled, “Rocky! Come!” She ran straight to me, and I knelt in the dirt, embracing her. Oh my god. I can’t even tell you.
We’re hoping that her next visit won’t be quite so thrilling.