Friday, October 5, 2012

April Goes Home

This is another belated post, since April went home almost exactly two weeks ago, but better late than never?

We had about three weeks with April. A little more than half that time was just spent helping her get comfortable and fixing issues that were created, or at least passively allowed to worsen, by her previous placement. April had never spent any time apart from her daughter Scarlett, so when they were finally separated, she went into a serious depression. It would have been better for both dogs if they'd been separated for short periods of time so that each could get used to being without the other -- but they weren't, and so the separation ended up being a lot more traumatic than it needed to be.

She also was not housebroken, crate trained, or accustomed to walking on leash (contrary to the representations that her previous placement had made on Petfinder, but that's a rant for another day. Suffice to say that I feel very strongly that making inaccurate representations about a dog's training is a disservice to both the dog and her eventual adopters. Most people are willing to do the work, if they're prepared for it -- and the ones who aren't need to know that the dog they're considering might be above their pay grade work-wise).

The potty training was the worst of these; April was the most difficult housebreaking case I've dealt with so far. She could (and did!) spend hours outside, refusing to let out a drop, but as soon as she went back into the house, she'd pee everywhere. No matter what I tried, she would not pee outside, only indoors, giving me no opportunity to praise her for making a correct choice. I was seriously at my wits' end... until Crookytail worked his magic and coaxed her to follow his good example. I took them out together, and when Crookytail peed, April did too. When he pooped, she did too. It turned out that all she needed was a role model to show her the right answer.

Once Crooky got April to finally potty outside, I could reinforce her for doing the right thing, and after a couple of days of Prizes for Potties, things got a lot easier. And by the end of the second week, we were just about done with Potty Hell. It was smooth sailing from there on out. Thanks, Crookydog!

Despite her initial adjustment issues, April was, and is, a good dog: sweet, gentle, people-oriented and dog-social. She doesn't bark much, she's not destructive, and her exercise needs are quite moderate, particularly for a lab/border collie mix. She has everything it takes to be an ideal family pet. And so it's not surprising that she was spoken for within two hours of coming to our house, although she didn't actually go home until a few weeks later.

April's forever family lives in Wisconsin, so it took a little while to set up the relay of friends and family who drove her halfway across the country. In the meantime, April quickly picked up the rest of the basic skills that would get her off to a good start in her new home. By the time she left, she had a decent Sit, an okayish Down, was very polite on leash, and had begun learning a baby recall and a baby Stay. We didn't get quite as far as I would have liked on those things, but it was enough of a foundation to build on.

And then she went home.

We dropped her off in Fannettsburg, a little speck of a town midway between Philly and Pittsburgh. Our friend Andrew kindly took over from there and drove April the rest of the way to Pittsburgh, where she was passed off to the next person in line.

Some 16 hours later, April made it all the way home. She settled in nicely, did not eat her new family's cats, and is now living happily with a new toy giraffe and the raggedy remains of the green squeaky snake she stole from Crookytail.

And that is the end of our story with April. The next dog arrives late tonight.

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