Today, my sister, Marge and I returned to a park that we haven't been to in a long time. I thought that it would be quiet at noon on a Friday - kids in school, people at work. Unfortunately, this visit wasn't all that different from our last visit (which was probably the most awful outing I've been on with Marge), because Marge was extremely sensitive to some of the sounds around us.
Friday, January 22, 2010
It's really hard to see her so confident and happy to start out, eager to get out of the car and explore the park, only to have her enthusiasm shattered a while later when something scares her.
The biggest culprit? - hockey. There is a small rink where people on rollerblades can play. When the puck hits the wall, it, as you can imagine, makes a loud noise. This sent her into such a panic the last time we were at this park (in September) that we had to leave, and it was the last straw before I took Marge to the vet, looking to find a solution to these issues. The other source of sound came from park personnel doing.. well, something. I'm not sure what.
In an effort to find a bright side, all I can say is that she didn't panic as badly as she did last time. However, there was still plenty of "get me out of here!" on her part, which makes it probably her strongest fear reaction in a long time.
I didn't really know what to do - she took treats most of the time, but she was pretty stressed out. She was fine while we walked on the wooded trails deep in the park. But, once we got back to the main part of the park, she heard the sounds again. So, we tried going on the beach. She didn't hear anything any more, but her heart obviously wasn't in it. She lagged behind us instead of excitedly jumping in front of us.
Eventually, towards the very end of our visit, I just sat with her in the middle of a big open field and slowly fed her treats as she soaked in the world.
It took a while, but she did start to look a tiny bit better - not much, but just a little. We walked in the general direction of the car, sort of zig-zagging our way to it so that she didn't just make a beeline for it.
She found something stinky to roll in - normally, I would have called her off of it, especially since she just got bathed last night. But, I thought it would make both of us feel better for her to just let loose and do what she wanted. After that, we went home.
This park confuses me. Marge has attended agility trials here (May '09 and August '09) and hasn't had much of a problem. Hopefully, we'll be competing here this summer, too. She used to LOVE going to walk on the paths, on the trails, on the beach, in the fields. Even when people were around. Were there no sounds then? Or, did she only become afraid of them now?
I've wondered to myself if Marge can be conditioned to these noises, just as she's become more conditioned to the sounds of my neighborhood. I don't know if it's better to avoid the park in favor of others, or to go to it often so that I can help her to realize that she sounds aren't going to hurt her. It's not a particularly busy park, which makes it nice - but, as we've found out, the hockey playing and seemingly constant park maintenance make up for the lack of traffic.
MargeBlog started in early 2009 as a training journal for my newly adopted, skittish Lab mix, Marge. Marge's world was small back then; her fears really limited the things I could do with her. Aside from trips to the park and attending beginner training classes, Marge was mostly a stay at home gal - not because either of us wanted her to be, just because the demons from her unsuitable upbringing continued to haunt her.
Slowly, the fear diminished, her world grew. Now, Marge is a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing, winning Agility and Rally dog who accompanies me to a wide variety of places. Here, you will frequently find detailed training updates, snippets from Marge's every day life at home, and photo-filled posts detailing our many outdoor adventures.
This is more than just a dog blog - it is an actual look in to what one shelter dog's life ultimately became when she found her first and forever home and began to blossom.
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A rescue from Georgia bounced around from shelter to shelter and state to state with her siblings, Marge did not have the luxury of living in a home - my home - until just past her first birthday. A life behind bars had taken its toll on Marge, whose obvious fear of people, noise, and city life in general left a lot for her to learn about how to get by in New York.
Marge is a different dog now than she was back then. It took years of new, positive life experiences, but her fears, which used to consume everything we did, are now only one theme in a great big book of adventures.
These days, Marge enjoys going to training classes, taking trips to agility trials, having play dates with friends, and eating anything that's even remotely edible - not bad for a dog who spent her puppy days in cages.
My time with Marge has been a learning experience for which I am ever grateful. As my first dog, she has taught me and continues to teach me so much more than I ever imagined about dogs, training, and behavioral/fear issues. She's a fun dog with a sense of humor who loves life and learning.
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