The Story of Effie: Settling In

October 30, 2013 | By Mellie Test

We're exploring, day by day, to find a routine that works.

I shouldn't be surprised that my initial hopes of full, spontaneous pack integration didn't work out. And, as Abby and Rebecca continue to remind me, our situation is completely normal.

[caption id="attachment_736" align="alignright" width="150"] Ronan and Stucky snoozing[/caption]

Right now, I'm most worried about my original two being put out by spending less time with my son and I. We're the type of pack that snuggles together, wrestles together, and spends time together. I value our evening time as valuable bonding, when my son and I are back from our long days of preschool and the dogs roam around us and often snuggle close.

I used crates at one point, but since we've moved to Pennsylvania, our rental rowhome is so small and narrow that I had to disassemble and reassemble my box spring to get my bed upstairs. All of our upstairs furniture is either kid-size, bendable, or foldable. So I'm using my bedroom as the main "dog crate," and we're sleeping in my son's room for now. It's Effie's home base during the day, while the other two dogs roam the house.

I feel incredibly lucky that I was offered this job at a pet company, of all places. I was reluctant to leave Northern Colorado and the majesty of the Rocky Mountain skyline, but the I'm grateful for the benefits of our current situation. I live close enough to work so that I can care for my dogs in the middle of the day. I also have the flexibility to work from home for a couple of hours in the middle of the day so that I can still take my dogs on their lunchtime walk, as well as let Effie out for some one-on-one time while I work. We live a block from an amazing bike path that I will be able to stroll with Effie as soon as she's less jumpy out-of-doors.

This morning I took my dogs for a 35 minute walk so that they'd still get to explore outside, leaving me time to focus solely on Effie once we returned. We're honestly used to longer walks in the mornings (and I'm sure we'll get back to that point), but it took me two days to realize that walking all three at once (considering their elevated stress levels) had the potential for trouble.

Yesterday was the third and last morning I attempted walking all three. Things had gone amazingly well the first two mornings, strolling in the early morning quiet along the Schuylkill River Bike Trail (my rowhouse happens to be across the street from the trail), until a jogger decided to stop and greet us. All three dogs became intensely interested in her, meaning the excitement level of the pack rose dramatically. Considering Ronan and Effie had experienced a fiery spat the day prior, the excitement of dogs eagerly vying for attention from a smiling stranger began to turn.

Nothing "happened," although I noticed Effie and Ronan beginning to lock eyes and pull towards each other, so I proactively kept them as far apart as I could. The woman looked at me curiously, so I explained we'd just rescued Effie and the pack was still working itself out. Luckily, she understood and backed away, wishing us good luck and "God bless you for rescuing her!" as she trotted back down the path.

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignright" width="150"] Sweet Effie[/caption]

I'm taking a lot of precautions. My son is nowhere near the dogs any time I'm doing an exchange or they're going to be in the same space, even briefly. He denies the need to stand back, saying, "Mommy, I'm okay," but I continually reinforce to him the importance of giving all the dogs space while they learn more about each other.

I explain to my son that living in a cage for so long with a continuous noise and dogs she didn't know scared Effie, so we need to give her quiet time to learn that she's safe in our home. I tell him that not feeling safe could cause her to lash out - especially when he's getting close to her while she has a toy or food. I tell him that she's not mean, but she doesn't know us very well yet, so we need to stay back while she figures things out.

I also explain that our dogs love us and want to protect us. That they don't know Effie very well yet, so they could get in a fight if thought they needed to protect us from her. I explain that this is a new situation for everyone, so we need to be extra careful. We all need patience and lot of space so that we can progress through uncertainty and anxiety, slowly build a stronger trust.



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