By Dido Panagiotopoulos
"I was a feral dog living in the veld and then under a grandstand at a school. This is the story of my rehabilitation, as told by Dido, my forever mom:"
Things were progressing nicely, but so very slowly... and it wasn't so much that I was impatient as that there was a deadline - Dini had to improve his recalls or he would not be allowed off leash on the beach - and how SAD would that be! He had to have his injections (they were due plus we were off to KZN where Rabies is even more rampant than here). And he had to be properly groomed because he would be in and out of the wind, sea and sand and had to be cropped and Frontlined. I promised myself that no matter how traumatic grooming was, he would never again get matted! Read more...
Sunday night also gave us our first Thunder Storm with Dini. Just our luck, it happened in the wee hours of the night :-( He was petrified! How had he survived feral? We knew enough not to feed into his insecurity by coddling him, but that to rather show that we were calm, unafraid and oblivious to the bright flashes and rumbling. Unfortunately one of the other pack members (Cyclops) is also afraid of thunder... Rescue Remedy did virtually nothing to help Dini (it works pretty well with Cyclops) so I gave Dini a Melatonin capsule (which works out to the the correct amount for his weight (PLEASE remember with homeopathic meds the correct amount is crucial and in fact it is ignorant to believe that because it is homeopathic it can do no harm - always better to consult a homeopathic vet or vet before administering anything to your pet, or at least do your research into the correct dosage for herbal and homeopathic remedies!!!). The Melatonin did help more, but still he only relaxed when he got into our bed and lay under the duvet next to us shivering. We did not cuddle him or talk to him but let him find his safe spot where he could stop panting, pacing and just settle down - admittedly too, we just wanted to catch a couple of Z's. The next day I crate trained him and the crate became his hideyhole and safe haven. It is a soft crate and his bed is now inside - he loves it there. We do not sip up the crate, but cover it with a black bath sheet during storms to at least black out the lightening flashes. Apparently one could wash his bedding (and the towel) with anti-static which would also help.
The vet visit landed up being the first mix up. I walked Dini 5km to the vet, to help take off some of his neurotic anxiety and burn off some energy. I had already desensitized him to a cloth muzzle (putting it on him only when he was completely relaxed... and he had never had an issue with it). I carried this with me and only put it on him when the vet was able to see us (remember to be very careful in using a muzzle and the type you use - a cloth muzzle cannot be worn for long since it constricts the mouth and nose and prevents the dog from cooling itself by panting - PLEASE if you need to use a muzzle, do your research on the types and appropriate uses of a muzzle as a tool). The curve ball happened when the vet, Dr Elshove, we had meeted and greeted with was unavailable (because he had to attend to an emergency surgery). I was reticent about having the shots done by a vet neither of us had met, but the receptionists all raved about him, and were quite right. He was calm and careful and made the visit as quick as possible. The shots were traumatic and Dini really fought, but as soon as they were done he calmed right down and even allowed the good Doc to pat him farewell. After the walk home, he was tired, mellow and relaxed (slept the rest of the afternoon). I have always thought that adrenaline is toxic and can poison the system and that by exercising Dini (his most favorite activity in the world!) we would help that adrenaline in his system dissipate quickly.
The next hurdle would be the grooming, so on the Thursday before we left I organized with my friend Jen and her two dogs (Tess and Bobby) to do a long walk early at Emmarentia Dam, before dropping the dogs of at the parlor. It was to be a very BAD day, right from the start. Whether Dini picked up on any anxiety from me regarding the grooming or if it was my excitement about leaving for the sea early the next morning, I cannot say. But Dini was a Wooligan right from the beginning of the walk. He was over excited, not walking nicely on leash. And here it was entirely my fault for trying something new, I put him and Gumby in harnesses and linked them together with a connector (my thinking was that Gumby is so calm and laid back (a therapy dog, noggal) that he would be a calming influence and good role model, and allow Dini at least a little freedom, in that he wouldn't need to be tethered to me and could do the doggy sniffing and tree-peeing with his brother). Massive failure... Gumby just plonked his bum down and refused to walk with the increasingly hyper, happy and frustrated Dini (this despite him having led several dogs around the puppy agility/ obstacle course at Paws for People training school). Dini loves Bobby (a Collie Pointer cross) who is 18months old, and really just wanted to chase and play with him... but as we know, Dini gets completely over-excited and loses the plot - also he is not the best speaker of Dog - so he sends off the wrong signals. Added to the mix we have Tess, a fear-reactive rescue who (although about 7/8years old) still has many of the same issues as Dini (from not being the best listener to not being the best communicator). So halfway through the walk Dini was all fired up and starting to bark excitedly and incessantly at Bobby, while Bobby was trying to elicit a game with Tess... Tess wasn't very keen to play with Bobby and Dini's neurotic excitement eventually made her snap and before we knew it, Dini and Tess were embroiled in a dogfight (with him clearly the underdog and squealing). We separated them very quickly and no damage was done. From then on it became a rule that whenever Dini would start any yipping or yapping he'd get put on lead. People would think I was over-reacting but we had witnessed how quickly his vocalizations would escalate into complete over-excitement!. He is only allowed off-leash when he is calm and most importantly self -controlled!. If he can't control himself then I need to take control of him, it's simple.
At the parlor, I went in with Gumby, Jumpies and Dini (Cyclops had, had a cut the day Dini had a previous half shave/ desensitization session). Perhaps the upside of Dini having been such a wooligan on the walk was that I no longer was consumed with pity or sympathy and so I agreed to hand him over (muzzled) to the ladies at the back. Jumpies and Gumby are so calm they don't even have a lead on when they get groomed and so were there to set a good example and be a support group. I sat in the front and played with Naomi's various foster babies (she fosters kittens and puppies for Fora). D-Tail Grooming Parlour is in Wilro Park Shopping Centre, Mimosa Street 011 768 5582. They have been outstanding with all my dogs and are happy to help in the desensitization process and Naomi and her husband are involved in animal fostering and also do pet sitting for people when they go on holiday. They did such a wonderful job when I first got Gumby and he was a township matted filthy terrier... although he didn't seem overly anxious about the parlor they did such a great job he LOVES going there and in fact is a huge fan of any pampering or grooming (and on his Paws for People visits the kids are forever brushing him, plaiting his ears etc)
The howling from the back was enough to break even my COLD cold heart LOL, but Naomi kept popping back and reassuring me he was just putting on the PAWformance of his life and was not being hurt in any way. They worked quickly and efficiently and managed to complete the entire job from snout to toenails. I almost burst into tears when I saw him. He was SO DIFFERENT and BEAUTIFUL!!. He came and sat in the front of the shop with me and proceeded to lap up half a bowl of water and gobble down an entire packet of Woolies doggy dried chicken treats... and then tried to roll himself all over the couch before giving the parrot Voeltjie the eye, investigating every product in the whole shop, having a peek in the premature Yorkie pup's basket and meeting and greeting everyone who came in and and out the shop (all while we waited for Jumpies and Gumby to be finished)... None the worse for his grooming despite acting although it was a near death experience!!!
Having had a day which in a way was the WORST DAY since I'd got Dini (what with his misbehavior and fight at the park) to this NEW Dini and knowing that the next morning at Sparrow's... we'd be heading off to the sea... It felt asthough we'd been blessed with a clean slate and another opportunity to turn things around! Interestingly, the style of cut they'd given Dini made him totally look like a proper member of our Pana Pack... Hi-ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to the sea we go!!!!