Weirdophobia

Fear periods are something we’ve heard about a lot throughout our years of raising puppies for CCI. According to my Puppy Raiser Manual, one such period occurs when pups are between 8 and 11 weeks old. Then a second kicks in between 6 to 14 months. “Corresponds with growth spurts,” my manual reads.  “May be frightened of new things or even known things.” Aside from the fear of stairs with open treads — which have terrified several of our pups — no previous puppy of ours has suddenly become afraid of something. But once again, Adagio is breaking new ground. Two entities currently frighten him:

The Dog of Death. This one is somewhat understandable. At least we know its genesis. Our walk to the neighborhood coffeehouse often takes us past a house where, months ago, a dog would usually spring to its feet at our approach and bark ferociously at Adagio through the wooden fence. It made even Steve and me jump a couple of times. It startled Adagio, and he put his ears back, but we always quickly moved on past the house.

One day, the house seemed empty. The dog appeared to be gone. Yet at some point — weeks later — Adagio began acting afraid at our very approach to the house. He whimpered. We pointed out to him that this was silly. The scary dog was nowhere to be seen. But over time, Adagio’s reactions grew more and more extreme. He began to scream and yelp and cry as we approached the fence. Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like:

One day we realized there was indeed a dog in the yard, where new owners seemed to have moved in and begun a backyard renovation project. When we turned and walked up the alley that runs behind the house, we could even see this dog, a friendly soul who wagged its tail and never so much as emitted a snarl, let alone any menacing barks. One day, when Adagio was squealing in terror as we passed the house, we even met the dog’s owner, who told us its name is Rile. (I’m not sure that’s how it’s spelled.)

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Strangely, when Adagio has come face to face with Rile, he calms down or acts like he wants to play.

To this day, Adagio continues to make a spectacle of himself every time we walk anywhere near the house. Steve and I should probably just avoid it. My manual says, “Don’t force dogs into fearful situations. Ignore the scary thing so dog won’t be afraid. ” But it seems so ridiculous for him to be terrified of the Dog of Death, as we have come to think of poor Rile. We keep walking by ever so often to see if Adagio has finally come to his senses.

In the meantime, last week he began to act afraid of…

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The Bowl of Terror. The bowl in question is his water bowl — i.e. the large metal bowl from which he and Tucker both have been drinking for all of Adagio’s life. We keep it on the patio and typically fill it with water a couple of times a day.

When walking back to the house from the lower yard (where we typically go for his toileting breaks), I realized one recent day that Adagio was veering over to the outdoor fireplace. It took me a while to realize he was doing that to avoid walking close to the water bowl. I could scarcely believe this. It’s such an innocuous fixture. It’s given him so much pleasure — quenching his thirst! — over the course of his short life. Moreover it’s his only source of water. He’s never been one to drink from toilet bowls or the pool.

But afraid he clearly is. Happily, we’ve observed that when he gets thirsty enough, he walks right up to it and drinks. Once sated, he bolts away.

What can I say? He’s a weirdophobe.

I also comfort myself with the thought that he completely got over the fear of open-tread stairs. Now he ambles up them without a second thought. We can hope he’ll also make his peace with both Rile and the Bowl of Terror.

 

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Terrifying

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One thing about raising puppies to be service dogs: the surprises keep coming. We got one Thursday night, when we settled in to watch one of the few remaining episodes of Season Four of Game of Thrones. (We’re racing to get caught up before Season Five starts next month.) Steve and I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the TV set, but whenever we do, he seizes the opportunity to do some dog grooming. He brushes teeth, cleans ears, files nails. He started introducing Kyndall to this routine within days after we brought her home from Oceanside. She was doing fine until Thursday night.

Among Kyndall’s 5 predecessors that we’ve raised for CCI, we’ve seen some pretty terrible behavior: plant murder, rug destruction, poop eating, serial vomiting, and more. But all 5 pups learned to be angelic while being groomed. Some may have been a tad nervous initially, but all eventually acted as if having their molars scrubbed or their nails trimmed was as relaxing as getting a deep-tissue massage.

Kyndall seemed to be trotting down that same path, tail wagging. But Thursday night we sensed something was amiss when she shrank from accompanying us into the TV room. When Steve was ready to minister to her, she cringed; we had to haul her bodily into the cradle position. She didn’t seem to mind having her ears swabbed. But as soon as he reached for the toothbrush, it looked a bit like this:

She seemed terror-stricken. But why?

I have a half-baked theory: Behavior experts say that dogs tend to be more susceptible to fear at certain times during the first year and a half of their lives. The first such fear period is supposedly around the 2-month mark, and then another comes when they’re 4- to 6-months old. During these periods, the pup can get scared of “items, situations or people with whom they formerly felt safe,” one website advises. “They may start barking at people entering a house or become fearful and startle at benign items like trash cans, drainpipes or even yard gnomes….” Kyndall is smack in the middle of that 4- to 6-month segment, so maybe her little brain has become convinced that the toothbrush and dremel (nail file) are evil — likely to hurt her.

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Must escape! It might KILL ME!!!!

The experts advise being patient and trying not to make a big deal of the fearful object. So Steve backed off the brushing. I’m thinking of putting some peanut butter on it next time, to see if she’ll relax and lick it off. Steve didn’t even turn the dremel on; he merely touched it to her nails. Still… it seems so weird.

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One of my scars

Frankly, I’m feeling desperate for her to get some major work done on those nails. She’s inadvertently scratched me several times in the last few days. Once again, I look like I’M the one being tortured.