Over the Fourth of July Holiday, I was scheduled to visit with two dogs I had never met, Molly and Clementine.
Molly - Boxer mix
I’d been told that Molly, the Boxer Mix, could be a little wary of strangers and skittish with sudden movement or loud noises. Good to know.
That first visit, as I got out of my car, I could hear thunder in the distance. *Bada-Boom!* I walked up the steps to the apartment feeling the heaviness of the air. About halfway up, the barking started.
In an attempt to soothe the barking dog, as I unlocked the door, I sang in a soft yet high pitched voice. “Hello Ms. Molly and Ms. Clementine! I’m here to walk you and feed you and we’re gonna be good friends.”
The snarling, barking face that greeted me as I pushed the door open, did NOT want to be my friend. But, just beyond Molly was Clementine.
Clementine - Mt. Feist
It was a strange juxtaposition! Clementine was practically dancing in place, she was so excited to see me. She ran to my other side and there she was – ears forward, running up to me and trying to lick my hand. On the other side was Molly – ears back, hackles up, teeth bared, snarling, barking and backing away.
I put my hands in my pocket, averted my eyes from Molly and kept singing. “Nothing to be scared of. I want to be your new friend. Let me give you a treat!”
Since Molly wasn’t rushing me, I moved very slowly to the kitchen table where the treats were. (Of all the times… I forget to have an emergency treat in my pocket like I usually do!) They both sat, though Molly still looked freaked out. While they were distracted with the treats, I fed them their dinners and read over the notes the pet parents left me. Then I took Clementine for a walk, hoping Molly would see how much fun Clementine was having and be okay with me.
While we were outside, I noticed that the weather had gotten worse. It hadn’t yet started to rain, but it is pretty dark and I could see lightening in the distance. Clementine didn’t seem to mind.
I gave them treats when I got back in and, since Molly seemed to be chilling out, I moved very slowly to put her leash on. Two things happened almost simultaneously: I heard a loud *Bada-Boom!* and Molly bit!
Fortunately, she only got my shirt.
Time to call for backup. (One thing I really like about Out-U-Go! is that if something goes wrong, I’m not alone.) Amanda, the Top Dog, was on a visit herself. We discussed the situation. She was baffled. She’d met Molly and had never seen her behave like that. But just talking to Amanda helped me think clearly. As we talked, I continued to give the girls little treats. Molly was no longer barking or snarling, but she was still fearful, stress panting and, every few seconds, her body would jerk… as if something was startling her.
That’s when it hit me. Though I couldn’t hear it, I realized there were fireworks going off in the distance. That combined with the thunder and this strange person in her house was terrifying her! I understood the situation. But what to do…
Thinking back to my work with not so friendly dogs in the shelter, I decided to try to lasso her with the leash. I pulled the leash through the handle end and looped it over her head. It worked!
We managed to walk and, even though it was sprinkling, the thunder was closer and I heard more fireworks, she did well. She finished up her business and we got back inside. While walking, the leash managed to get caught under her collar so I couldn’t just drop it to let her slip out of it. But I wasn’t taking a chance and putting my hand anywhere near her mouth. I found a long wooden spoon in a drawer and slid it under the lasso. It came right off. Phew!
The next morning, I come in with treats. Molly barked, but then settled down quickly. No snarling at all. Over the next few visits, she got more and more comfortable with me until I was able to cuddle with her in the living room. She even put her head in my lap while I wrote notes!
Just goes to show, you can’t judge a dog by the first meeting. Especially when Big-Bada-Booms are involved!