Monday, May 27, 2013

Color Me Discouraged

Just about the dog, God bless her and you know I love her to death. Everything else is fine.

All right. We tried the halty. It was awesome. Until it wasn't. I did as the trainer had recommended and introduced the halty gradually, with plenty of treats. Sophie got treats for looking at it, treats for smelling it, treats for letting me drape it over her nose, and so many treats for letting me put it on over her head that it's a miracle she retained her girlish figure.

Sophie wasn't a big fan of actually wearing the halty, though, and was not shy about letting me know it. She showed her disinclination to wear it by lowering her head and then by walking away. As much as she loves going for walks, she would lie down rather than let me put the halty on. Unlike Sophie, I thought the halty was a great thing, once I had it strapped on her and we'd gone on a few walks.

I thought the halty partly because of what it wasn't. That is, I'd used the prong collar in the past (trainer recommendation, not my idea, and the trainer had convinced me that the collar didn't cause pain, which belief was laid to rest when Sophie began wheeling around as if to give me a nip to make me stop when I tried to keep her from murdering mail carriers). The halty was no prong collar.

I also liked the halty because I'd begun to worry that restraining Sophie from murdering mail carriers would damage her esophagus. Even though I was only using a martingale collar, it seemed to me that such force applied to the throat (the tension between her lunging and my holding the line) could not possibly be beneficial.

But the standout wonderful trait of the halty was that it didn't require all my strength to hold the line when a mail carrier passed. 

However and unfortunately, Sophie developed an aversion to the halty. I don't know if this aversion is what led to the agitation that last week led her to wheel around and actually bite me (which she has never done before) or if there is some other reason.

The wound is almost healed. If you've ever been bitten by a 75-pound dog, you know the appearance of the wound was much more impressive than the wound itself. There was a puncture wound (which burned like hell the first day) surrounded by vividly colored bruising. The bruising was about the size of a large handprint. It was on my left calf. I wore jeans all week to spare anyone the sight. Now the puncture site has healed over, and there's some mottled purple skin.

No bit of knowledge is ever useless. I learned what to do in case of a dog bite. I cleaned the wound by irrigating it with water for a few minutes, and then dabbing it with hydrogen peroxide. For the first couple of days, I applied antibiotic ointment.

The pain of the bite was nothing to its psychological effects. On me, not Sophie. I'm actually a little afraid to walk her. Even before we started using the halty, she'd been crankier and crankier. She'd lunge and leap at things that had never bothered her in the past: garbage trucks, school buses, an elderly woman in sunglasses, a passing boy on a bicycle. City buses--and there are many on the streets where we walk. She was becoming wildly unpredictable. I used to know what her triggers were; now, I don't. It seems as if anything can set her off.

Yesterday when I took her out, she lunged at a passing car before we'd taken ten steps out of our driveway. The car wasn't any of the things on her list of Things She Hates: not a mail carrier truck, UPS truck, FedEx truck, meter reader, police officer, nor person in uniform. It was just a blue car. So I turned around and we went back inside. She hasn't been walked in two days, which I know is bad for her. I'm going to muster up my Inner Resources and walk her tonight, after dark, when no one is about.

Do I have to put a muzzle on her? I don't want to. If she hates the halty this much, can you imagine how much she will hate a muzzle? And yet, we must walk in the outside world, a place that is full of Things She Hates and also full of Things That She Never Hated Before But Now Hates. I have what I think are justifiable concerns: what if the leash breaks or if I lose my grip? She could attack some poor innocent person--and I say "attack," not "bite." She bit me and then realized her mistake. I'm certain Sophie wouldn't think it was a mistake if she bit a stranger. She could run into the path of a mail truck or garbage truck or FedEx truck or city bus.

My plan is to take Sophie to the vet and ask, "What the?" Is it possible there is some kind of health problem that is exacerbating her crankiness? If not, then off to the trainer we go. 

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