|Josie, trying to get as far away from me as she can get.|
I've been working with my neighbor's newly adopted dog, Josie. She's a fearful dog that has never been socialized, or at least, very little.
She is afraid of people, objects and other dogs. The first day I spent time with her, she kept her distance from me (in picture above), growling at me. This is normally how she handles stressful situations, as she has found that growling is pretty effective about keeping people away--until my recent visits, when I refused to leave the room. I sat on the couch some distance away but within her sight, and pretty soon, she stopped growling. I spent a lot of time throwing hot dogs at her, shortening the distance so that she would eventually come up to me. Pretty soon, she would come up to me asking for a hot dog, and then run back to her "safe spot." But it was progress!
It's very difficult getting her to go anywhere, as she thrashes against the end of the leash, trying to get away. But once she gets on pavement, she's fine, at least until we walk past a strange object, like a garbage can or a parked car. And then she thrashes all over again. It's pretty scary when she does that because I worry that the collar will slip off her head and I won't be able to get her to come back.
I've been coming over to come get Josie nearly every day and I bring her to my house for exposure to a different environment. The first day, she spent the time frozen in one spot, panting and shaking. I felt sorry for her but really don't know what else to do to help her. So I brought her back again the next time I was supposed to work with her, and this time, brought her bed along, and she laid down and took a little nap. Progress! :-)
That day, I took her for a car ride and brought her bed along. She promptly laid down in it. She seems to be ok with car rides, as long as she has her bed along. Otherwise, she just sits there and shakes.
The last thing I did was I brought her to a park. While I can't say that she was super excited about going (she seemed confused, not sure if she's ever been to a park before), she did seem intrigued. I was super excited that there was no thrashing or trying to get away. In fact, she even led the way and left her mark there. :-)
Oh so slowly, she is starting to wake up to the world. People would be very surprised to hear that Josie is only 9 months old--she acts like she's ten years old. Very low energy, likes to be left alone and take naps.
She reminds me of Max, my own son, who has autism. Maybe that is why I feel so determined to get her socialized, or at least as socialized as I can get. I've been "exposing Max to the world" since Max was diagnosed at the age of three, and like Josie, he "thrashes against the leash" resisting and fighting anything that is new. It is discouraging, it is sad, and it breaks your heart. I always have my own fight going on inside when I see him pass up someone who offers friendship or kindness. It's really difficult to accept that this is just the way autism is. (Not to say that he can't make friends, but it's an extremely slow process and most people give up on him.)
And so Josie and Max are very much the same in this way. I use Josie as a "teaching tool" to Max what it looks like to always be afraid and not be willing to try new things. He does seem to understand how it's not good for Josie, but he has a hard time relating it to himself. Maybe one day he will see it too.
So, that is how I spend my time these days, and yes, I still love it. Every small step in progress that Josie takes towards feeling a little more comfortable with people invading her space, gives me a little more hope that one day, it will be the same for Max.