Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weekend With Queenie

Queenie had a bunch of urban adventures this weekend. On Saturday she got to visit a pet supply store and see a large street fair (mostly from a distance, as the teeming crowds and noisy rock bands were over her comfort level to approach closely); on Sunday we ventured out to the opening day of the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market to see the first vendors of spring.

It went... mostly well.

Queenie snarfed a pretty big chunk of dirt-gritted fried chicken from the street fair before I could stop her (this dog has reflexes like greased lightning when it comes to spotting and gulping illicit "treats"), but luckily it doesn't seem to have given her any indigestion. That makes me happy. If she's going to eat like a furry little vulture, it's a good thing she's got the cast-iron stomach of one too.

The rest of the experience, however, was a little overwhelming for her. Sometimes I forget that she has only been in the big bad city for a week, and before that she lived in an extremely rural and quiet part of the country with very, very different surroundings. Here, everything is louder and closer and more crowded, there's more concrete than grass underfoot, and even the food and water is different.

It's a huge change and culture shock for a foster dog, and while it's easy for me to remember that with a less confident dog like Shakespeare, who announces with every pancaked step on the sidewalk that he's over threshold, Queenie has been so happy and bouncy and resilient that I find it easy to forget just how drastic the change has been for her, too.

So... on Saturday I saw some reminders of that. She did not like the noise of the street fair. She did not care for the crowds. We met a few people who were tentatively interested in inquiring about her, but she ducked away from their introductory efforts and mostly hid behind me instead. (This prompts another line of thought that I'll explore in a blog post later this week, if I have time -- namely, whether or not those "instant connections" at the moment of meeting are really predictive of a dog's future life with a person.)

Sunday was a less drastic version of the same.

We went to the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market toward the tail end of the afternoon, when the crowds had thinned out and some of the vendors were beginning to pack up for the day. I figured it would be slightly less crowded and thus a better environment for Queenie's first visit.

She handled herself well. She navigated the crowds without panicking, stayed as responsive and connected to me as I could reasonably expect given our short time together, and explored the tables without inappropriately trying to mug any of the vendors or counter-surf their tables for food (I was watching carefully for any signs of this, since Queenie can be such a vacuum-on-legs and this farmers' market has a lot of vendors selling tempting meats, fresh fish, charcuterie, sausages, and poultry). No reaction to the dogs she encountered in the market, either, other than some moderately curious sniffing.

On the way home, we finally hit Queenie's threshold and she started pulling to get back inside, but I was impressed that she kept a level head through everything prior. Again, she did tend to shy away from people who tried to pet her (and it seems that she may be particularly sensitive to strangers passing their hands directly over her head, which is not at all uncommon), so there is some uncertainty toward strangers there, but under the circumstances I don't view this as surprising or terribly worrisome. Overall I think she's got a good level of environmental soundness. Maybe not completely bombproof and fearless (which can sometimes signal a dog that's more than the average pet owner can handle anyway), but well within what I would hope to see for a stable, well-adjusted family pet.

One thing Queenie does not like is being left alone on the street. On Saturday, and again on Sunday, I tied her to poles on the street while I popped inside a couple of different bakeries for a few minutes. Both times, I could hear her whining and barking outside. It wasn't full-on panic, but she was clearly stressed about being stuck outside by herself.

This wasn't altogether surprising to me, since she didn't much like being left alone in her crate either the first couple of times I did that, but she got over that with repeated exposures and is now fine with being alone in her crate while I take the other dogs out. My guess is that she will eventually come to understand that being tied to a pole while I run errands does not mean that she's going to stay tied to that pole forever, and she'll calm down when she realizes that it is not, in fact, the end of the world.

But as of right now it is not a thing she enjoys.

Potty training is going well (still zero accidents in the house!), leash walking is probably about 80% there (very little pulling except toward food or when Queenie gets overwhelmed; default Sit at halts is almost perfect; I still get a fair amount of leash wrapping, but I have never cared enough about that to spend much time fixing it), Sit on a verbal cue or almost no cue at all is just about 100% consistent.

Time to start working on some new things.

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