Just Like A Feral Cat
By Terri Florentino
It was evening by the time Tillie and I pulled into my driveway. I would introduce my pack one at a time after Tillie and I had some time alone to take a walk and get better acquainted. I opened the back of my truck to find the little pup cowered in the back of the crate, trembling so badly her teeth were chattering. I wasn’t sure if she might react fearfully and attempt to bite, so I moved slowly as I reached into the crate. She continued to quiver as I clipped the leash onto her collar as she turned into a tiny ball in an attempt to make herself as small as possible. I couldn’t recall ever dealing with a dog that was as petrified as this little girl. It was a good thing I had a secure hold on the leash, as I picked her up out of the crate and gently placed her on the ground she immediately defaulted to her flight drive and attempted to scurry away. Her social skills, at best, were similar to that of a feral cat. I attached a 30ft line to her collar hoping some distance between the two of us might help her to relax and feel less threatened. There was almost never any tension on the line, 30ft wasn’t even enough to take off the edge. I decided to let my dog Scout out for a meet and greet. He was such a gentle soul, I knew he would be able to gauge his approach accordingly. As I let Scout out of the house I expected Tillie to once again resort to her flight drive and dash away; however, once she spied him she stood so still she looked like a statue. Scout casually trotted around her, his body posture non-threatening, only giving her an occasional glance as he sniffed around the yard. After only a short time, much to my surprise, Tillie started to wag her tail and crawl toward Scout. Her body was nearly sideways, low to the ground, submissively wiggling back and forth. She seemed so happy, her body was exploding with joy. I took a deep breath and smiled, relieved to see her bubbling over with any other emotion other than fear. Scout sensing Tillie’s invite to approach trotted up to her holding his head and wagging tail high. They danced around one another, sniffing and circling. Tillie threw herself into a play bow that sent Scout charging around her in a larger circle. I relished in the moment, it was such a pleasure to watch them enjoying one another.
“Come here, Scout,” I called. I wanted Tillie to see Scout with me, to show her that she had nothing to fear as far as I was concerned.
He immediately came to me; I rewarded him with affection and praise. Tillie still wary, kept her distance as she stood patiently and waited for Scout to return to her. Since the introduction with Tillie and Scout went so well I decided to let the other dogs out, one-by-one to meet Tillie. With each meet and greet she became more relaxed, she was so at ease with the other dogs.
It was now time to enter the house, I purposely kept the leash on Tillie so as to be able to get a hold of her should she try to escape. It was obvious from the minute that we stepped foot inside that Tillie had probably never seen the inside of a house, she immediately attempted to dash back out. I pulled her inside and closed the door. I switched from the long line to a 6ft lead; I would need to keep her with me in the house. If I allowed her to hide, that’s what she’d do, hide.
The plan for Tillie moving forward was to gain her trust and start to develop her social skills. I knew my dogs; especially Scout would be a large part of the training.
As we all sat quietly in the living room I leaned back and just observed Tillie. She was rolled into a little ball quivering at my feet so I moved off of the couch and sat on the floor next to her. I called for Scout; he cheerfully obliged and laid down right next to me. As we all lay together on the floor Tillie curled up next to Scout, relaxed and fell asleep.
Would Tillie ever learn to trust? How is Luke doing since his cancer diagnosis? Stay tuned for The Moyer Menagerie, Part 4.