My puppy and I made it out early enough for the sunrise light yesterday. Her fur glowed in the red light as the sun barely peeked over the hills to our east. Look at her athletic and graceful build. Also, look how happily relaxed she always is in the forest.
Then, the trainer finished her puppy socialization class that was before our appointment. I'll spare you every detail but the trainer thought that we should use Shyla's love of other dogs as motivation for her to go into the building. So, she asked the puppy owners to stay a little late while we brought Shyla into the building. It worked better than I could have imagined. We still had some trouble convincing Shyla to walk through the door and into the building but we used treats to get her over the threshold. Then, the puppies, all under 4 months of age, helped Shyla to begin to relax. Shyla even nose-poked the hand of one of the owners. Seeing that made me think that, with a nice slow pace, Shyla will get used to meeting new people.
The trainer, Shyla, and I stayed in the building until the Level 1 class, Shyla's class, arrived. We showed Shyla that there were back rooms where she could go if their arrival was stress-inducing for her. But, the lure of meeting new dogs kept Shyla in the front room as one dog-human pair after another (4 total) walked in! I was SO happy to see that my trainer knew so well how to handle these seemingly mundane situations that can be scary for an inexperienced dog.
During class, Shyla started out sitting in front of me, faced away from me, nervously scanning the scene. But, as the trainer talked, I'd click my clicker and give Shyla a treat every time she glanced back toward me. By the end of class, Shyla was sitting facing me, her back to the class, and making amazing eye contact. I reward eye contact lavishly because it means that my puppy is focused on me - a very good behavior in all sorts of situations.
That moment when Shyla turned around and looked into my eyes during class was magical. I knew, at that instant, that we'd work our way through socialization and training. If Shyla trusts me enough to turn her back on the class and look at me, it means that we are building a bond that will last. I believe that it is one of those moments that I'll never forget - it was the moment that I felt that she was truly my girl.
One last note about Shyla... we are house-training her, and it hasn't been as easy as I expected (it's usually not too hard with little puppies). I micro-manage her to prevent accidents. We are constantly either tethered together, contained in a small space together (e.g., the deck), or she gets freedom for 30 min or so after she does her business outside. We had a 5 day streak of no accidents but I messed up yesterday and let her roam free while we were getting ready to go for a hike. So, I hit myself over the head with a newspaper and cleaned up the accident (have you seen that cartoon? Don't worry - I consider it to be *my* mistake when she has an accident. There's no punishment involved.). A new streak of no accidents started immediately with a clean slate - and we are up to 24 hours now. The togetherness of house-training is good for us.
As for R, he continues to romp as if he feels pretty good. We've decided to get the echocardiogram and find out the truth. We both believe that there is not a tumor on his heart but we need to find out the truth to move forward. Many of you asked about tick-borne diseases that might have damaged his blood cells - my vet had them on her list and then somehow ruled them out. I'll be sure to ask her why in our next conversation. Thanks for the input.