Cara is a two and half years old female Black Mouth Cur/Labrador mix who I picked up from the shelter recently. She was the only dog who did not bark when I entered the dog room at Sean Casey animal shelter in Brooklyn. This is the story of her path of becoming my dog in the first couple of weeks when I brought her home.
I went to Sean Casey animal shelter twice before adopting Cara. The first time I walked her, I was surprised at her playfulness and persistence. It was a rainy day. I planned to walk her for 20 minutes. But, minutes quickly turned into hours when I realized that she did not want to return to the shelter. She was not trusting in the beginning. At one point she aggressively chewed on her leash so that she could run away from me. When I did not get angry but instead repeatedly called her, she came back to me. This is when I decided that she would be my dog. Her nature quickly showed through the wall that she put up. Her true nature is very sweet. She loves a quick chase of the birds or ducks. At the same time, she loves to lounge around next to anyone who shows true love to her. After the second time I walked her, I adopted her. The folks at Sean Casey was extremely careful when answering all my questions. They made sure that their answers were practical and precise so that I understood why they recommended certain methods regarding dealing with Cara. These answers would guide me well in the first weeks of bringing her home.
The first day having Cara in my home, I was both anxious and nervous. After a long night walk with her, I had to quickly teach her how to get on and off an elevator. After that, I had to introduce her to my living room. This was going to be her new home. The first night was rough. After I fed her, she decided that she didn’t like the chew toys I bought her. She also didn’t like that I went into my room to send a few emails while she lay restlessly not knowing where to sleep. So, she chewed my couch cushions into shreds. I quickly realized that on the first night, keeping her in her crate while showing her that I will reappear in the morning is important. So, I firmly told her that she was bad for chewing the couch. Then, I sent her into her crate for the night. I lined the crate with soft towels and gave her water and chew toys to keep her company. There was heavy breathing from her for the next half an hour as she repositioned herself. Soon, she fell asleep. I could hear the sounds of her sleep from the next room. At 2 am, I was still worried about Cara. She surprised me with all her chewing. At one point, I thought it might have been a mistake to choose an active dog. So, I googled furiously of all the strategies to use. I even ended up cooking her first meal of chicken and rice. I drove myself nuts with questions on how to raise her the first night.
The second day, I decided that a firm schedule will be good for Cara. I planned to introduce her to a long morning walk so that we can set the tone of a good active life. As I woke around 6, I checked on Cara, she was quietly sitting in her crate. As soon as she saw me she started wagging her tail, I quickly let her out. It took a good hour to get the leash on her. Then, we set out for a four hour walk in the park. I did not plan it to be that long. We walked to the park. Then, we hung out with other dogs at the dog run; rested between the shades and walked slowly back. The whole process made me feel like a dog too. I sensed her fear when big trucks came by. I sensed her frustrations when I wouldn’t let her eat street food. Most of all, I joined in with her to watch other dogs play with each other. It was the best time. After we came back, she sat under a chair at the local coffee shop to sleep while I sat on the bench sipping my ice tea. By the end of the day, Cara started getting used to sleeping where my foot is. She also became obedient when I told her no. She was so aware of my absence that she would wake up if I walked away. I was so surprised how powerful a small amount of unconditional love is even when it comes to a dog. On this night, she stopped chewing the couch. She demonstrated to me that she understood what a chew toy was for. It was an amazing fiat to see her adjusting so fast. But, with a success, there’s always another issue popping up. Since I started feeding her twice a day instead of once a day, Cara urinated in the hall way after she finished eating her dinner. I moved her crate away and had her sleep on the couch cushions on this night. She was dozing off for about 2 hours with me next to her. Then, I walked away. She would not come to me since she was content with her cushion. I left her alone. At the end of day I was as tired as she was, but my anxiety decipated. She slept through the night waking up once in the middle.
We went to prospect park in the morning again. Cara loved seeing other dogs. She sniffed as many dogs as she could. At one point, she even chased a squirrel. In the mist of it all, Cara seems to be tired and threw a tantrum in the park as she saw other dogs without a leash. The tantrum lasted almost 10 minutes with her biting her leash and fighting with me to get leash off her. The struggle was draining for me since I thought at one point she might bite me. But, I hung on to her. When it finally ended, I lead her home. For dinner that day, I introduced the roof space in our building to her. She found the noises of the high way to be loud but loved the fact that she was leash free. She took time to explore the roof top until she was so tired that she found a corner to just sleep.
After the tantrum yesterday, I decided that Cara is not ready for prospect park yet. I realized that I had been a total overachieving mom. I needed to chill. So, on this day, I lead her up to the roof, brought a bunch of magazines, then just let her be. I brought all her toys with me, and just spent time near by her. She slept most of the day. Probably, she was so tired going from sleeping for 16 to 20 hours a day to suddenly sleeping only 8 to 10 hours. At night, she got so comfortable on the roof that she did not want to go home. The roof top door was almost like the door of some kind of crate to her. She could not even be bribed with treats to go through it. My neighbor kindly tried to use treats and show me other ways to get her off the roof. They finally succeeded after 30 minutes. I was relieved after not being able to do it myself for about 3 hours. This day was by far the toughest. My level of anxiety increased exponentially on this day. Cara could sense it and dealt with it by increasing her assertiveness. At night, I re-asserted myself by introducing her to her permanent bed. I lead her to sleep on it. Then, but a blanket there so that she knows that’s where she should sleep.
This is by far the most eventful day so far. I booked Cara for a vet appointment and a dog trainer appointment. Cara was sniffing all over the vet office. She was really quiet with the doctor and the assistant. When she got her shot she didn’t even struggle. It was amazing to see how comfortable she was there at the Vet office. Once we were done, Anthony from Calm Energy Dog Training arrived for the first session with Cara. Within the first 5 minutes, he was able to tell me what I was doing wrong with Cara. He corrected the collar I was using that was making Cara uncomfortable. Then, he told me the right way to sit with her, walk her and establish relationship with her. We walked Cara to the doggie run on 4th Avenue. During the walk, Anthony corrected Cara’s fear of cars by tightly holding on to her and making her experience each car passing so that Cara understands that these cars just pass by and not threatening. He taught me how to walk Cara all around the doggie run so that she will become bolder. In a mere two hours, he made me confident being with Cara. We taught her commands such as “go to your place”, “sit” and “lay down”. But, most of all he made her confident in her environment.
Later on during the day, I left Cara with an experienced dog sitter for about 4 hours. Cara was great the whole time being taken to the playground, then to the roof top. She played nicely with other kids at the playground. She was so tired at the end of the day, she forgot to chew on anything and went straight to bed. That night, she slept from 7pm to about 6am.
Today started with Cara waking me up by whining after she woke up. She slept so soundly on her couch, adjusting her self in all positions. At one point, she put her four paws in the air with her belly up to sleep which I thought may be uncomfortable for her, but her eyes never opened. We went for an early morning walk to the dog run. We stayed at the dog run for about 3 hours. The whole time, I was petting other dogs to get Cara to come over to meet them. Initially, Cara was scared, but I asserted myself by throwing the ball for them or petting other dogs. This lead Cara to follow my lead. By the end of the 3 hours, she was following me without the leash. I met other dog owners at the dog run who were giving me tips on raising Cara, both Cara and I were slowly building confidence. By the time we came back, her tail was up all the way. She was smiling wildly and the cars/trucks didn’t bother her as much.
As a reward, I got Cara a bully stick. After a quick nap and lunch for Cara, we set off to another adventure. I let Cara chew on her bully stick while I had lunch in a nearby restaurant. She loved the peaceful time she spent with her bully stick. Then, we set off to walk to Pet Smart. This long walk down court st in the middle of the day was a bit rough. Cara reverted to her old ways of running away when big trucks came. I had to pull on her leash hard each time so that she deals with her fears. After we got to Pet Smart, she relaxed. She knew that mommy brought her to a friendly place. The trainer at Pet Smart helped us find the Martingale collar that we were looking for. He put it on Cara and helped to adjust her other collar. The comfort level for Cara increased exponentially after that. She stopped scratching her neck so much. She enjoyed her walk back with the new collar.
I felt a lot more comfortable not having to pull on the leash so hard. It was amazing to see how little adjustments in the equipment can make such a huge difference. When we were done, we came home beat. By this time, Cara has found a safe haven under by desk. The sound of me typing is very soothing for her. So, she slept under it for about 4 hours. When I finally put her to bed, she was not as sleepy as the previous nights. She woke up around 2, missing her bully stick. I gave it to her which was a huge mistake, she would not calm down after that. I had to walk her around the block at 2 in the morning to get her to calm down and go back to sleep. This was by far the roughest night so far.
It’s been a couple days since Cara woke up at 6 on the dot. She adapted so quickly to the schedule I set for her. Instead of giving her chewing toys, I left her alone to find her own. But, instead of making her wait for me to take a shower, I took her out almost immediately. This worked wonders. I realized that all that chewing after she woke up is a habit. I believe previous owners gave her dental chews. Today, I will go get some for her. But, I wanted her to solve her own problem. I laid out chew toys and bully stick near her food tray, I even put some food out. She picked up the toys and the bully stick on her own. Once she’s done with chewing and calm enough that I can put leash on her, I took her out to the doggie run. This morning’s run is by far the best. She finally urinated inside the run. (It did not happen yesterday). She played with a big poodle even though initially she was afraid of her. She even brought the tennis ball back to me when I played fetch with her. I learned to watch for the way she played with other dogs. From some friendly dog owners, I got more tips on what to watch out for when they played. I learned that dogs will figure out how hard to play with other dogs without stepping over boundaries. I learned that belly up is a great affectionate way of playing with another dog. When I brought Cara back, she was very tired from playing that she wasn’t interested in food or water, she went immediately to sleep under my desk.
The second week went by really fast. Cara overcame several hurdles in the second week. She got her play pen and moved into it swiftly. She did not miss her crate at all. I leave the door open at home when I’m in the living room and she is so comfortable in the pen that she does not want to come out. She also busied herself with chewing tendons, bully sticks while I was away for a couple hours one day. She had no apparent separation anxieties now. Each day, I practice leaving her a little more in the other room to sleep by herself. She no longer watch for my return. She enjoys doing her own thing now.
I overcame my anxiety at leaving her at home. I also trusted her more on our walks to let her have a long leash while I follow as she sniffed. This was my way of easing her into off leash training.
Over the weekend of the second week, she was off leash for the whole day at a friend’s house. She had slight anxieties at all the kids, adults and excitement for that day. But, she managed to throw away her normal sleeping habits to enjoy the long walks, running on and off leash times.
This was a major milestone for us. I learned that I can trust her to follow me even when she is running up the block. When I call her, turn around, she comes sniffing at my feet. Our bond is growing stronger.
Mondays are not good days for walks for Cara. The garbage trucks still frighten her silly. The energy accumulated from sunday’s sleeping made her rest less. She took a little step backward in her training by throwing leash aggression tantrums again.
- Hillside – Brooklyn Heights
- 3rd st/4th Ave – Park Slope
- Di Martinas – Carroll Gardens
- Prospect Park leash free hours
She sleeps through the night waking up only to chew around 2 in the morning (about 8 to 10 hours). She also sleeps about 6 hours during the day intermittently. This amounts to about the 14 to 16 hours that she needs to sleep.
At the dog runs, Cara helped to be-friend a shaking puppy one day that made the proud mama smile. She is just so good natured and funny. While she socializes at the dog runs, I continue to meet dog owners and chat with them about raising their dogs. It’s great to share stories and swap resources. I look forward to bringing her to the runs even though sometimes it means I have to get up at 5 in the morning.
After 5 weeks, I have noticed that I’ve lost a few pounds and my energy level increased with the amount of coffee I drank. I’ve started to refocus on other aspects of my life. But, all in all, a friend of mine mentioned how radiant I looked recently. That is all due to the love that Cara gave me that enriched my life immensely.