Three Years Old!

Silas’s third birthday passed this weekend without a lot of fanfare. As you can probably tell by my very sporadic blogging, things have not been super-shiny-happy here lately. It’s not that things are bad. If anything, it’s something of the opposite–we’ve settled into a very pleasant, but very boring and very secluded routine. His birthday made me a little sad, because I feel some kind of finality that he’s really, truly an adult now, and I can’t expect him to just “grow out of it” anymore.

On the other hand, we finally got to take down the baby gate in our bathroom, and this week I learned that I can have throw pillows on my sofa again. As long as I’m willing to share, that is:

Pillow

Silas has been happily taking his very short sidewalk walks, which you can see here if you don’t mind truly execrable video-while-walking:

His ears are mostly back, but in a fairly neutral way (the closer they are together on the back of his head, the more freaked out he is). You can tell that he’s checking over his shoulder a lot, but he’s also able to stop to sniff the bushes. I get very excited at the end of the video, because he walks past the gate to sniff the bush on the far side. That means he did not frantically dart under the gate, and he didn’t try to drag me the last few steps. This is pretty typical for these outings, plus 20 seconds or so at the beginning while I got the camera set up. When I say little walks, I mean it. On a usual day we walk around between the townhouse buildings for a few more minutes once we’re done.

That is, alas, the only way I’m able to get him out of the house. Smart Silas has progressed to the point that he will happily get in my car as long as I have absolutely no walking apparatus. No bag, no car keys, no harness. If my husband is home, the two of us can cajole him in, but I hate to undo my happy-counterconditioning by pressuring him about the car too often. We get his exercise by playing upstairs-downstairs fetch over our loft railing. He loves the park once we’re there–I just can’t get him to connect the pieces.

I’m really uncomfortable with our very small life, because I know that Silas doesn’t benefit from it in the long run, but everybody’s happy for now. When there’s no pressure from the outside world, Silas is officially the world’s sweetest, smartest dog, so we get by.

Which circles back around to my fairly radical drop in blog posts–it’s times like this that I have to dial down my over-investment in his life. If I work too hard at being the best dog-person ever, I get really frustrated when he doesn’t make more progress. If think about nothing but my dog all day, surely my dog could get his act together? Alas, that isn’t how it works. I’m trying to pop in a few times a week; I can’t promise more than that.

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18 thoughts on “Three Years Old!

  1. I relate to this a lot, because while things are going splendidly with two dogs, I feel like Ruby has regressed because I’m not completely focused on her at all times. And to be honest, the break from that is welcome. As it gets nicer and nicer outside, we have people walking, biking and skateboarding by the back patio regularly and while she doesn’t have a clear view, she can partially see and completely hear. Having Boca has turned “life for the dog” into “life with dogs,” which frankly is the sort of life I want. I know that without focused solo counter-conditioning Ruby isn’t going to make any improvements, but it’s so much nicer just to take both dogs for a casual stroll and dart/U-turn when we have to. I feel a small comfort as I did with my previous two dogs that passersby can see that I have one “normal” dog while the other freaks out. It’s hard to find the balance between the comfort zone and the progress-making-zone.

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    1. That last line, all the time, definitely. And if I push a little too hard on the progress-making, Silas will completely regress. It took over a year and multiple kinds of medication to get him back on the sidewalk.

      When I put him on his medication, I got some of that feeling that you’re describing–his problems were no longer so overwhelming that we couldn’t live. If I’m really honest, one of the biggest reasons that he hasn’t made more definitive progress is that having a just-plain life is really nice. Aside from his obsessive barking at every sound in ten blocks, his problems really didn’t cause us any day-to-day trouble, so once the medication toned that down it was really nice to just act like regular people. Until the car thing came up–that one’s inconvenient.

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  2. It’s great that Silas is able to enjoy those walks – however short they may be. He exhibits a lot of positive behaviors – he hasn’t completely shut down and is still interested in his surroundings. I did notice a little tail tuck as he was sniffing – but at least he was still engaged enough to check out the different odors in those bushes! Although I do notice he has a pretty speedy gait and I’m not sure I could keep up with him! When I drove Blueberry home for the first time and she was SO nervous – she at least showed signs of being interested in what she was seeing through the windshield and I took that as a positive. I think I told you before about the foster dog I had that completely SHUT DOWN when I had her in the car. Absolutely no response to the normal things – eyes glazed, just still and withdrawn. About the only time I saw her come out of that shell was when I took the other foster she looked to her as her big sister on the car ride to her new adopters.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Silas has a very happy life. Just because he isn’t like other dogs – doesn’t mean he’s getting the short end of the stick. My last dog Shadow was similar in that she wasn’t exactly fond of the world either. She’d get through our short walks around the block going as fast as she could. She didn’t hate the walks enough to refuse to walk at all and they were interesting to her (as long as it was at a time of day when no one else was out and about) – but she definitely preferred to be a homebody. So I focused on what she did like and not on how she wasn’t like those other dogs. She loved playing “kick ball” and “wall ball” and gutting stuffed animals. Was her world small? Absolutely – but it was full of love and fun and at the end of the day, that’s all that really mattered to her. I’m sure Silas would say the same to you. 🙂

    Also, SO jealous of the green there! Stunning!

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    1. This is such a beautiful way to think of things–thank you so much.

      And yes, it’s aggressively green here–we got massive rain over the last few days.

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  3. Wow, three years already! Time sure does fly.

    Have you gone back to read early blog posts? Because as someone cheering you on from the outside, I’m astounded by Silas’s progress.

    As for constant improvement, I think it’s bogus. Sure, it’s good to work with our dogs to increase their comfort level with the world. But every introvert doesn’t have to learn to speak in public. And every dog doesn’t have to meet some crazy ideal of what we think a “normal” dog should be.

    Loved seeing Silas’s walk.

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    1. I know that in the scheme of things he’s come a long way–I used to have to carry him through the parking lot at the park, because he wouldn’t even walk back to the car. Now I can get him out of the car at a gas station.

      This last setback–and how we’re not getting through it–has just hit me unusually hard. I’m sure I’ll snap out of it.

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  4. Boring is…well, boring. But there are a lot of worse things life can be. Silas is funny and adorable with his own distinct personality. He may just hear a different drummer.

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  5. Aww! Happy birthday, Silas! I don’t know if this helps you at all, but 3 was a big turning point for us with Cooper. He became a smidge more confident in a lot of situations. And, I will say, that for Lucas – who was way worse than Cooper, but not sure how he compares to Silas – when he turned 7, it was a whole new world. I’m trying to write a post about this, but last weekend? It stormed the entire weekend, and Lucas didn’t need his Thundershirt or anxiety drops the entire time. He wasn’t happy by any stretch, but he stayed calm. I really believe that with consistent work, wisdom does, eventually, come with age!

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  6. Happy birthday Silas. Small steps are still important, and as long as he is happy, that is what truly matters. Do not beat yourself up, as so many other people would have given up by now.

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  7. Happy Birthday, Silas! And many more!

    I think it’s good that you’re so aware of what he can and can’t handle. And counterconditioning, it takes awhile. And I know you know that. And I also think there are times that next connection is never made. But, we do what we can.

    The picture of him sleeping on the throw pillow is just darling!

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  8. I discovered your blog by accident. I have two dogs with fairly severe anxiety/reactivity who see a vet behavioralist, are on medication, etc and I can’t count how many times I’ve read your posts and thought, “yes, THIS!” So wonderful to find other folks who get this and get these kinds of dogs. Few people understand how invested I am in the pups’ emotional lives and their progress or sometimes lack thereof. I’ve definitely struggled with the how-small-is-too-small-a-world question. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for writing. You’re obviously doing amazing work with Silas.
    And happy birthday Silas!

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  9. I’ve got some catching up to do – happy belated to Silas!

    Reading this post after ‘Things I just Can’t Be Bothered About’ makes me think maybe the tune is changing upwards? Hope so! A small world may be perceived as small, but I’m sure Silas thinks it’s quite big enough, and happiness is important.

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  10. Thank you for writing this blog. It makes my life with my very anxious/ reactive deaf dog feel not so alone. We have a small world too. Medication helps but we have our ups and downs and I’ve finally learned that I have to listen to her and stay within her comfort level and not mine which makes our lives much happier. It make me sad that people don’t realize what a loving dog she is but I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

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