Consistent New Behaviors with Me
Justice now consistently throws me play bows, watches me as I enter and exit the kitchen, eats celery and apples with gusto, and smells my mouth and face and hair close-up when I have bent my knees to make myself more accessible. He does this by standing next to me and leaning close or by standing in front of me and stretching toward me. I wonder if my posture resembles a play bow close enough that it is calming for him. He also typically sniffs and licks my legs and feet when I am standing at the counter with my back to him.
He is still wary of hands coming toward him so that he nose bumps treats but rarely takes them from my hand. As a reward for each brave nose bump, I put the treat near him and he eats it right away. He does feel okay with the palm of my hand against my leg and fingers outstretched. (I began with one finger extending very slowly and progressed from there over weeks) He has been smelling and exploring them in this less threatening position. One day he kissed my hand as if he wanted to be near me longer.
Justice does like to lie regularly on a blanket outside of the crate, squeaking his toys or chomping his celery stick. He seems quite comfortable when I am present and even when I am entering or moving around. He also dances excitedly at meal times as I am preparing all the food. As he dances, I believe you would never be able to guess what he has been through. I mirror his dancing movements – tossing my head and lifting my feet while making subtle and brief eye contact. I restrain myself so that my level of animation is less than his as I believe he can only handle a certain level of stimulation.
He urinates comfortably on the pee pad when I am in the room. However, I have never seen him defecate.
Once upon my return home, I saw that the doors between the kitchen and the living room were open. He could easily have pushed them open any number of times but hadn’t until now. I had been hoping that he would want to explore on his own at some point with the other dogs in their rooms. Nothing was disturbed so it was hard to tell how far he got.
When friends come to visit, he stays in his crate. The difference from previously is that he makes more eye contact and doesn’t really seem nervous. Jenny brought him a toy which he scooped up right after she left but would not accept from her, nor while she was there.
I finally got a chance to replace the bed I had inserted at the vet’s office months ago. I had been wanting to change it for quite some time but was waiting for the least intrusive moment. We had just been having a long face fest when he wandered off away. I quickly pulled out his little crate and removed the bed. I emptied out the crate, replacing Jenny’s donated now-rag-tag bed with the new one donated by Lisa. On the floor were scraps of paper and cardboard, Kongs, stuffy toys and stuffing, and Nylabones – all of his hoarded treasures. Soon, he settled into his new bed comfortably.
Justice has been allowing his legs to stretch out more and sometimes his feet extend through the big wire crate. JoJo, my 1.5 year old Golden Retriever, and I both touched Justice’s foot accidentally at the same time as we were playing. He did not recoil or withdraw.
His coat is shiny and full. The neck wound is completely healed and his hair has grown back beautifully. His eyes continue to soften and connect. His nails need trimmed but they can wait. I did notice that he has dramatic dew claws that stick out from his back legs and touch each other. Those will need to be removed at some point as they will cause him problems.
I first noticed them when they got stuck in a certain blanket I have since removed. He was frightened that his foot was stuck and started dragging the blanket into the crate. He did stand still while I used scissors to cut the blanket to release his foot. Again, no sign of aggression even in that concerned state.
You will notice that Justice receives rewards all of the time. Sometimes he has been extra brave or at other times he has simply tried. On some days he breaks new ground and reaches new goals while on others he consistently repeats his success.
His rewards are food and toys but also closeness according to his comfort level and distance when he needs it. My goal is always the same – safety and trust. I keep my focus on the long term return not on whether he can pass minor tests or quickly progress.
June 3 Rub My Face!
During our morning face fest, I became aware that Justice was leaning into my hand more insistently. I gingerly began to brush the side of his face with one finger very slowly to which he responded by leaning in more. Each day, I have been waiting for his cue and then brushing his face. In keeping my touch very brief and calm and light, I have been able to rub his cheeks, under his chin and finally his forehead.
He has probably spent more time with me than any other human so far. I take that responsibility very seriously. I feel incredibly humbled by, and in awe of, his resilience, instincts and heart.
Luisa from Tenderfoot Rescue and Angela from RezDawg Rescue shared the video of Justice’s capture. (Both rescues have FaceBook pages) Bless them for helping him. When I saw it, I wept for him – it truly shows you where he came from and how unbelievably lucky he was to be saved. If you would like to see it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the link (I don’t know how to attach it hereL