(You knew it wouldn’t be long before the blahg turned to Puppy, right? I’ve been with her for six whole days now. We are in that nice peaceful pre-holiday lull, and I’ve been unpacking, cleaning, hanging lights, and making puppy-proof spaces in the house, beginning with my office.)
Little Miz Vivi is sweet and saucy and a plump, lighning-fast, tumbling tornado by (short-duration) turn. Her virtuoso skill at this stage of life is napping, which she does with total abandon, particularly in her preferred spot: a human lap. (This is very fine for the human, too.) She’s a good bit of work, like any baby of any species, but utterly delightful. During the decision-to-adopt process, I did stop (for a second) to wonder whether we were moving too fast, adopting so soon again, but I’m already very glad we did. This wee pup has moved us solidly back into the 32,000 year-old* human-canine communication continuum.
I think I needed to dive back into that familiar and treasured stream quickly, perhaps simply to realize it was still there. Within a day or two of living with Vivi, Paul said, “She’s showing us just how truly broken Chance was.” I agree; in fact, I admit to shedding another few tears for him, for the terror that shaped so much of his life (and ours) that no amount of love nor effort could cure. Viv is completely innocent, free of that. Of course, part of Chance’s troubles came about simply because he didn’t have the kind of early puppyhood that Vivi is having now (and had since shortly after her birth, being raised with her litter in a home in foster care.) We’re making sure she continues to be socialized, gets out into different situations; she’s met all the neighbors, has been to the vet and the pet store, and people have come (and more are coming) to the house to meet her. She and Lupe will travel out to the family holiday celebration with us (4 dogs, 2 cats, at least 6 humans.) She’s at her most impressionable period for the next several weeks. Even so, it’s clear that her instincts are solidly tuned to the ancient language.
For instance, when Vivi is afraid, like when Rocky (a huge young mastiff who lives two doors down) barks his deep bark, unseen behind the neighborhood trees, she runs straight to one of us and sits with her back to our legs. She is saying, precisely, “You have my back.” In Chance’s puppy class, we were encouraged to teach our pups to do that very thing, to come to know that place as their safe spot, especially when we introduced them to new things. Vivi goes there instinctively. Chance never, ever did, and he never really had a concept of safety. He only had slightly reassuring places, and he still had fear-frenzy times in each of them. There are many, many more examples we see daily.
She tears around hilariously, but ‘checks in’ frequently.
I’ve begun clicking with Vivi, casually starting ‘school’ and she gets it, beautifully. But we are also – with house training and a few other things – simply using positive-reinforcement voice cues and she understands those too.
Though I’ve lived with a few decidedly strange dogs in the past, I had never consulted a trainer until Chance. Vivi will go to puppy school, and it’s nice to know that we have backup if some odd quirk surfaces, but I somehow don’t think we’re going to need it. Vivi has the ancient bond in her veins, and so do we. When she sees people, outdoors, in an office, or coming through our door, her tail wags instantly: “Hello! It’s me!”
*”An analysis of the (genetic) samples indicated that the grey wolves split from…dogs approximately 32,000 years ago. But then the researchers went further—they also looked at the genes responsible for such things as digestion and metabolism and even neurological processes. They then compared the dog genes to the same types of genes in humans. In so doing, they found similarities that suggest humans and dogs have evolved some of the same traits over the same time period—hinting at a possible communal relationship. And that, the researchers say, suggests that dogs might have been domesticated as far back as 32,000 years ago.”