One recent morning, Rain kept stealing objects to play keep away, her favorite game. Items from the kitchen counter. Items from my dining table. An item that was inside the kitchen sink. One item I had placed inside my bag so she wouldn’t bother it! It’s a game I’ve been trying hard to break her of.
But then she got my new, beloved, expensive pencil sharpener, still in its box. Fortunately I got the item back before she had damaged the object itself, which might have exposed several very sharp blades to her doggy mouth. (RIP, pencil sharpener box!) This, being the fifth thing she had stolen in 40 minutes, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was ten minutes late leaving for work already. I was angry and took her next door without giving her the usual two Charlee Bears as is part of our daily goodbye ritual.
The guilt started once I got to work. I had a flare-up of an old injury and over the past week hadn’t been able to give her any extra physical activity—it was hard enough to do our morning walks. In addition, the pain was making me grouchy overall.
One thought lead to another, and before I knew it I called a local doggy daycare that Rain’s Uncle Atticus went to several times. It had a new name and a new owner, but the post-changeover reviews seemed positive. I scheduled Rain to do a trial day that Sunday.
The goals: find out if this would be something capable of wearing Rain out. Expose her to more new things in the world, increasing her overall socialization, but also her socialization skills with other dogs.
We decided that Rain would come in when they opened that day (8am) to allow her to meet other dogs gradually. Sunday would also have fewer dogs overall.
We were standing in front of their door at 7:59am. She was escorted to a buffer area on the other side of a door as I signed a form. When I turned around, her paws were up on the windowed part of the door, looking sad she had been separated from me. Like I had just handed her over for adoption at a dog shelter.
The first day of kindergarten is the hardest on everyone, Rain! I waved goodbye despondently and shuffled out.
Surely I’d get the call to pick her back up when I got home, right? A couple hours passed, still no call. I told my mom how drop-off went, and assured her I’d check in at noon.
Meanwhile, I was getting some chores done at home that would have been very difficult with Rain around. I swept the floors! I vacuumed our area rug! I listened to podcasts!
A little after noon, I called to check in. Rain was fine—she wasn’t really playing with the other dogs, but she wasn’t obviously stressed. She wasn’t barking and being a problem. Nobody was bothering her excessively.
After a long afternoon errand, I arrived back at the facility at 4:30pm. The end-of-the-day report: Rain did sort of make a friend. She and a three-legged husky that belongs to the owner were lying down near the water bucket most of the day. Watching the other dogs as I enjoy people watching. Rain never really played with the other dogs. It can take a few visits for new dogs to come out of their shell, she said.
Rain came out from the back. I pet her, and she shook out a few times in a row—we learned in Reactive Rover this is a de-stressing/self-soothing move. Rain promptly began telling me all about her day, or chewing me out for leaving her. When she figured out that we weren’t going outside right that minute, that I had to converse with the owner and pay, she really started barking.
No bigs, she said. I’ve been saving ALL my energy for you today.
As if to illustrate her point, when I was signing the payment slip Rain lithely jumped right up on the waist-high counter.
Yes—Rain was raring to go home. She had a long pee next to a tree right outside the facility. She forgot that she has been scared of my car lately. She jumped right inside once the door was open for her.
And that night, she had all the energy in the world for our time together. My dreams of having a worn-out dog by the end of the day were dashed.
Is that the end of doggy daycare? NO!
I’d like to try it a few more times and see how it goes. If she gets used to other dogs and comes out of her shell more, great! If she continues to sit in solemn silence all day, then I’ll try new things.