12/22/22 (the real one)

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Many of you know that we adopted a dog, Ursula, from a shelter, almost four years ago now. For that matter, all of our pets are rescues, as far as we are concerned. Edgar Allen Paw, our bowling ball orange polydactyl cat, came from a different shelter. Muse, our 5-pound alpha of the house (also a cat), has been with us since she was a baby. She came from a student’s friend who was driving from one coast to the other, and whose cat had kittens along the way. So technically, Muse isn’t a rescue – but we were so happy to take her in.

Before Ursula, there were two beagles, Blossom and Donnie. Blossom came from a shelter, and Donnie came from a rescue organization. Jake the cat came from a shelter, as did Cornelius. Einstein, another orange kitty, was born in my parents’ drainage ditch that ran beneath their driveway. My parents found homes for the mama kitty and for all the babies except Einstein, and so I took him in. And there was Cocoa, my chihuahua, who also came from a shelter.

To say we believe in pet rescue is an understatement. While the animals have all come with their quirks and challenges, the love we receive in return is just boundless.

So back to Ursula. Paired with her severe anxiety, which has gotten better over the years, is separation anxiety. Over the last year, this has gotten worse, to the point where we can pretty much count on finding a puddle whenever we leave her alone, even if it’s only for a few minutes. We have concrete floors, so it’s not difficult to clean up, but, you know…ew. She knows she’s done wrong. She won’t look us in the eye when we get home, and she’s the definition of the word hangdog. But the puddles continued.

We do have a crate, but the crate door is almost always open. She goes in there as her security place. We have tried putting her in there when we’re not at home, but it just makes me sad.

Also in the last year, Ursula began to act more dog-like in terms of food…meaning she’s much more likely to beg now, to ask for food, and she will actually wait eagerly for dinner, instead of eating with an eye to the ceiling in case it crashes down or someone steals it from her. She has breakfast now, given to her by Michael before he goes to work, where before, after being taken for her morning constitutional, she used to dash upstairs and return to her loveseat until I would go down later.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to start treat therapy.

Whenever we’re going to be gone, even for a little bit of time, she is now given a Milk Bone dog biscuit. She does not get a biscuit at any other time, for any other reason, so that she would start associating that biscuit with being home alone. She is told specifically, “We will be home soon. Here is your treat. There’s more when you’re a good girl.” When we get home, if the house is puddle-free, we hold a potty party, jumping up and down, cheering “Good girl, Ursula! Good girl! What a good girl!”, with tons of pats and pets and butt scritches, and then, not one, but TWO more biscuits.

Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.

But…the last two days, it’s worked. With it being the Christmas season, we are in and out a lot more, and yesterday in particular, she was left alone three times. No puddles! A total of NINE biscuits! Today, so far, I was out once, and likely won’t be out again, because of the !@#$ blizzard. But when I came back…

She dashed around the house with zoomies! She doesn’t do zoomies! Her tail was a blur! She made her special Ursula sound, which is a cross between a whine and a banshee scream! All while I checked the house and found no puddles. None. Zero!

Potty party! While she wiggled and jiggled and sashayed and…did whatever her noise is, I cheered. What a good girl! What a good girl, Ursula! What a good, good, GOOD girl!

And treats.

Having a dry floor is wonderful. But I have to tell you, seeing joy in this dog, seeing her dance and prance and charge around the house with a sense of confidence and good-girl self esteem, back to joy, seeing that JOY, ohmygosh.

Granted, it’s over not peeing and doggie biscuits. But it’s joy. And I am overjoyed to see it.

I hope you all have a joyful holiday season. I hope you get zoomies and butt scritches and that you have your own special sound that you make when you just can’t hold in happiness any longer. Merry, merry, merry, from me, from all my family, from Ursula, Edgar Allen Paw, and Muse.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Ursula, with her raggedy pink blankie.
Ursula in the shelter, the day we met her. Could I resist that face, even though I said, “No more dogs!” No, I could not.
First day home.
Happy, happy Ursula.

4 Replies to “12/22/22 (the real one)”

  1. Thank you for sharing this! You made me smile this morning because I love my rescue dogs too and can so very much relate to the pure joy in seeing them overcome their fears and be regular, happy dogs!

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