The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 5. Issues and Lessons

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As the next week unfolds, they establish a routine that is followed, with little variation, for the next few weeks. I’m becoming quite content, except for being stuck in the crate when they leave. I’m also learning a lot, like what behavior is expected of me and what’s unacceptable, names of things, actions and people, and perhaps most importantly, I’m learning trust. With each interaction, I’m learning that humans are not just creatures that provide food and a chance to relieve myself. These people who have adopted me provide comfort, love, and even fun. The hands that reach for me are not roughly handling my ears, they are gentle, affectionate – and even occasionally hold out a treat for me!

One morning, as I stand near the bed and bark to wake them, Mom reaches toward the table next to the bed and I suddenly get a small stream of water in the face!

Whaaa…. What just happened???

The same exact thing happens the next morning. After that, I never bark to wake them in the morning. I lie quietly on my bed until they get up. That water in the face is startling! I never figured out how she did that. But I learned my lesson well.

I begin to learn what it means to have something of my very own. They give me something called a toy. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s soft and fuzzy, so I sleep with it. When they pick it up, it squeaks, which is interesting. But I can’t figure out how to make it squeak myself.

One evening, they hand me the toy and it smells like treats! I quickly investigate and find that the toy has no stuffing and a hollow body. In the hollow, there are treats! I eat them, of course. After awhile, she takes the toy and puts more treats in it and tosses it to me.

“I wonder how long it will take her to learn how to play.”

“I don’t know, babe.”

A few minutes pass, and Dad walks by, coming near my toy. I growl softly.

Don’t even think about it. That’s MY toy. It’s the first thing I’ve ever had that’s MINE and you can’t have it!

She jumps up off the couch.

“NO!”

Surprised, I back up. She grabs the toy. She looks me in the eye. I look away.

“This toy, is mine, not yours. I let you have it, but it’s mine, because I’m the boss.”

She says this in a low voice, like a growl of her own.

I… I’m sorry. I got a little too excited. I never had anything of my own before…

She puts the toy out of my reach and sits down again.

“I know she’s just being possessive because she’s never had anything of her own before, but she needs to know that behavior – and especially the growling – is NOT OK. If she does that again, do what I did.”

“OK. She’ll learn.”

“I know.”

She gives me the toy again about an hour later. And takes it away. And gives it back. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t growl.

Each morning and before bed, Mom takes me outside – but not just for a chance to relieve myself. We walk for 15 – 30 minutes before returning. These walks are interesting and enjoyable. I get to sniff and explore my new home territory. And she and I begin to bond. Oddly, despite her nervousness and fear of the invisible thumping creature at night, she is a leader. She lets me know clearly that she is boss. No, she doesn’t frighten me or hurt me physically. Her assertive energy clearly tells me that she is my leader. With me, she has the confidence she lacks in other situations. She can read my signals and I can read hers. In this way, I learn that barking at and chasing squirrels is not acceptable under any circumstances. I learn I must walk at the same pace she is walking, at her left side, without pulling ahead or lagging behind. I learn that “Wait,” means to stop and wait for her to begin or continue walking, or wait until I receive the OK to jump out of the car. This learning is enjoyable, enriching, and it forges a bond between us.

She still leaves me in the crate each day when she leaves. I’m not alone for a very long time, but I get worried. Will they forget me? Will they not come back? I try whining and barking to call them back.

Hello? If you can hear me, please come back! I don’t want to be alone here, especially in this crate! Hello???

They always return and let me out. One evening I hear them talking about me more than usual.

“This is not good.”

“It’s not a big deal, baby. He told me he wasn’t complaining. He just happened to be home and heard her barking. He said he just wanted to let me know.”

“Yeah, he says that, but he is complaining. Oh god! Did he say how much barking? All day, for an hour, what?”

“He said on and off throughout the day. She’d bark for a few minutes, stop for awhile, then bark for a few minutes again.”

“Why is she doing this? What are we doing wrong? I’m following all the instructions for alone training. I emailed Maria for her suggestions. We chose a Greyhound because they’re supposed to be quiet dogs!”

“I know, baby, I know. She probably just needs some more time to adjust. It’s only been a little over a week.”

“Almost two!”

“Try emailing Maria again.”

“OK. I don’t know what else to do.”

That night when we take our walk, she talks to me.

“Gracie, PLEASE stop the barking. If anyone complains to the office, they’ll make me get rid of you. And I don’t want to. I want you to stay with us. Don’t you want to stay with us? You don’t want to be sent back, do you?”

No I don’t. I want to stay. I like it here. But I don’t like the crate. Can’t I just stay out of the crate?

But of course she can’t understand me. She’s not that perceptive.

A few days after this, I hear her talking to the phone. I’ve since learned that when they do this, somewhere else is a person doing the same thing, and they are actually talking to each other through the phone. Amazing.

Anyway, she’s talking about me. My barking in particular.

“What can I do about it?… No, she has only had one accident, on the second day, and it wasn’t her fault… Start with a few hours and go from there? OK, I’ll try it. Oh, also, we had a growling incident…”

She tells the story of the toy and my growling. I’m ashamed to hear it told.

“Thank you so much. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

She seems happy with what she’s heard. She goes to Dad to share the results of the conversation.

“Sooo, she says I handled the growling well. She said if I felt nervous or afraid that the dog might bite me, I could hold out a pillow when I say ‘NO!’ But she’s not going to bite me. I’m not afraid. For the barking, she said that maybe Gracie’s not a dog that can be crated all day. She says some Greyhounds don’t like the crate and are happier out of it. That sounds like Gracie. She said that since Gracie’s pretty dependable as far as house training, we should try leaving her out of the crate when we go out. She said start with a short absence, like when we go shopping, and if she does well, has no accidents, then leave her out for longer periods.”

“OK, let’s try it.”

See? I was trying to tell you! The crate just isn’t for me.

The next evening, they put a Kong in my crate. I go in after it. They both walk out the door. And I’m alone. But the crate is not latched – the door is wide open! I enjoy the gooey stuff in the Kong – which I now know is called peanut butter. Then I come out of the crate and lie down on the rug. I stretch out my legs and sigh. This is much better than that crate! Sure, the crate is as big as the one I lived in at the track, but I’m not at the track anymore. I’m retired! I heard them say so.

After awhile, I get up and walk to the front window and look out. They park their car in view of this window. They’re not there. I whimper a bit, then find another spot to get comfortable in.

They return after two hours.

You’re back! I’m so happy!

“Hi, Gracie girl.”

They walk through each room as if they’re looking for something.

“I don’t see any messes.”

“Me either. This is very good.”

So I am allowed to be free of the crate and can roam freely throughout my new home when I’m alone.

* * * * *
Now that I have free run of the place, I’m really happy. This is a great life! I try napping on the couch. I’m not sure if that’s OK with them until one day as I’m napping there, Mom walks into the room and sees me. She just laughs.

“You’re so cute! Hey, babe, you have to see this!”

So you’re OK with this? That makes me even happier.

When they leave me alone now, they just leave me some food in my crate and leave the crate door open. I now feel comfortable that they will come back home. So I eat and nap and watch squirrels through the window while I wait for them to return. They always leave the radio or the TV on for me, so I don’t feel too lonely.

The weather is cold here in my new home and indoors, some areas, like the shiny floors, are cold too. My sensitive paws aren’t very comfortable on the shiny floor, but I don’t spend much time on it – just walking from room to room. No big deal. Until one day something scary happens.

I’m home alone, and after a nap on my bed in the bedroom, I’m heading to the living room. As I’m walking past my water bowl, which is just outside the kitchen, I lose my footing and slip on some water. (I’m pretty messy when I drink.) My legs go in all different directions. It hurts and I’m scared! I make it to the rug, panting and shaking. What just happened?? That shiny floor is dangerous and scary. I’m not walking on it anymore.

When they return and Mom tries to take me outside, I’m too scared to leave the rug.

Please don’t make me. Please, please, I’m so scared!!!

I’m practically sobbing; I’m really terrified. I don’t want to do splits again! But she I insists. I do need to relieve myself. Eventually, she gets me to the door and outside.

After a few days, my fear is deeply rooted. Coaxing, bribing, pushing – nothing will induce me to walk on that floor of my own free will.

One day, she comes home and shows me a package.

“Look what I got for you, Gracie girl. They’re rubber dog booties. They’ll help you not slip on the floor. Let’s try them!”

She pulls four blue things that look like deflated balloons out of the package. One by one, she pulls them onto my paws. Then she steps onto the shiny floor and calls me to her.

Uhh… I don’t know… I’m still scared…

“Come on, baby girl. You can do it! Try it!”

She takes one of my paws and places it on the shiny floor. It doesn’t slip.

OK… I’ll try…

I lift my paws higher than normal. These things feel weird. But when I step on the shiny floor, I don’t slip!

OK, I like them.

I like the booties so much, I hold up my paws one at a time for them when she pulls them out to put them on me. I’m smart enough to figure out when something is good for me.

But there’s one other problem. The water bowl. It’s on the shiny floor. And I tend to make a puddle around it when I drink. Lately I’m not drinking that much because it’s too scary to get to the bowl. They don’t know how I slipped – they weren’t home when it happened.

Then, one night when we take our walk, I can’t “go poo-pees.” We walk around for an hour. I just can’t do it. She begins getting agitated.

“Gracie come ON! Why won’t you go poo-pee?”

I just stare at her. I don’t know what to do. She pulls out her phone.

“She won’t poop! We’ve been out here an hour! I don’t know what to do!… OK, fine.”

We go back inside. He takes me back outside and walks me around some more. Finally, I poop. We return.

“She pooped. She probably got nervous because you were upset.”

Pretty good call.

“But I didn’t get upset until after we were out there for an hour and she wouldn’t poop!”

“Well, she pooped. Remember she can sense your emotions. If you’re upset, she’ll be upset.”

That’s right.

But it happens again. I can’t speak human, so I can’t tell them why I can’t poop sometimes. The next weekend, they figure it out.

I can’t poop in the morning. They leave me in the crate when they go out because they’re afraid I might poop inside while they’re out. When they come back, she takes me out and tells me to “go poo-pees.”

But I can’t.

After awhile she gets frustrated again.

“Gracie, why won’t you go? Don’t you like your life with us? Why don’t you poop? Just poop.”

Then she gets her phone again.

“Hi Mom… She won’t poop and I don’t know what to do anymore! I tried everything… But I’m calm when I first tell her to! It just gets ridiculous being out here in the cold for an hour or more, begging her to poop! If she poops inside, we’re going backwards… Yeah… How many times a day did Sheba poop? I don’t remember… You think once or twice a day is enough?… OK…”

We go back, Dad joins us, and we walk a nearby trail. I finally poop. She gets very excited and gives me treats.

“GOOD GIRL!!! Good poo-pees!”

Humans are weird.

After we return from the walk, they put me in the car – I still won’t get in by myself – and we take a rather long drive.

When we stop and they let me out, I can smell other Greyhounds! We walk into a building.

“Welcome to the Greyhound Friends Craft Show!”

Greyhound Friends? Sounds like a great place!

“Let’s find Maria. And Heidi. I want to talk to them.”

We walk around inside a huge building filled with big tables and many people with Greyhounds. I greet each Greyhound we meet.

Hi there! So good to be here! Great to see one of my own kind! How are you?

Many of the people pat and stroke me and comment on my looks. I’m still kind of shy with strangers, but it’s quite pleasant to be admired and receive all of this attention.

We find Maria, who I recognize as one of the kind people at the adoption day. They chat about me for a few minutes, then we continue walking around. We pass a water bowl and I stop to take a long drink.

“That’s it!”

“What?”

“The water! The water bowl! She hasn’t been drinking enough – we just didn’t notice. That’s why she won’t poop! She needs more water. We have to move the water bowl. I thought if she was thirsty, she’d just venture onto the floor. But I guess not. We just have to put it on the rug. How did I not think of that before?”

“That makes perfect sense. I can’t believe she’s that stubborn about the floor.”

Well, if you slipped like I did, you’d be “stubborn” too.

They look at the different tables. Each is covered in dog-related items – collars, leashes, dog coats, jewelry, treats. They stop at one table in particular.

“This is flannel. That should keep her warm at night.”

“If that keeps her from doing that shaking thing at night, let’s buy it.”

They buy it. I find out that night what it is. They call it a pajama. It’s like my coat, but softer and lighter. They put it on me at bedtime. It keeps me warmer at night. Before the pajama, I would get up several times each night and do the “wet dog” – a vigorous full-body shake – because I would get cold. Now I sleep soundly and warmly.

They do many things to make me more comfortable and happy in my new home. As I settle into a regular routine and learn what is expected of me in different situations, I feel secure. Even more novel for me, I feel loved. I’ve never known love before. A loving touch, a loving voice speaking loving words, a loving energy surrounding me. For the first time in my life, I’m thriving.

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3 thoughts on “The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 5. Issues and Lessons

  1. eloquentlyury says:

    Oh poor lil’ Gracie! I’m so glad you figured out the problem, she was afraid to drink water on the dreaded slippery floor, poor baby. This is my favorite blog so far. Maybe I should try the spray mist in the faces of my cats. They do the same thing to me every morning. The way you handled the growl was good too. You nipped that one in the bud. Good work, doggie-mom. Rubber dog booties…adorable! Doggie pj’s…too cute! She looks so cute!

  2. eloquentlyury says:

    Oh, and when I was there on Saturday, I noticed that Gracie would go into her cage and periodically come out for a good, long stretch. It was done at regular intervals and so it makes sense that she would probably bark at the frustration of not being able to stretch those long legs. I’m glad she’ll be out of the cage. It’s a long day in a cage when you’re a big dog.

    • Thank you! It’s been a journey for all three of us, but we’ve learned so much and bonded as a little family. You know, we never intended to keep the crate – it was just going to be a housebreaking tool. But she actually likes to go inside the crate, as you saw, as long as the door is open. It’s her personal space. So we kept it. Now, she only gets closed in there while we eat – and she’s very good about it. She’s an angel about her potty business, so she doesn’t need to be locked up all day. šŸ™‚

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