For most people I know, 2016 has been a year full of challenges, and not all of them good ones! This certainly was the case at my house as well! In late February, Michael’s dad passed away, so we had to travel out of state for his funeral. Because of Rugby’s shelter background and his trust issues with me, I’ve never left him at a boarding kennel, or even with a pet sitter. That meant that he needed to come with us on this sad journey, and so I packed his bags and crossed my fingers that all would go well.
Rugby’s Big Adventure
We were gone about 8-10 days, and much of that time was spent in one motel room after another. Just before the funeral, I became sick on our trip, so Rugby and I snuggled together in bed at the motel. I was SO proud of my Rugby James!! I think he knew that I needed to have him behave well, because I’m sure he felt my stress and worry, and he knew I was sick.
He coped so very well with it all, and handled every new situation like a champ! For every single day that we were gone, it was one change after another, and Rugby managed it all so much better than I ever expected. I’m pretty good at dodging and weaving strangers in public places, so that helped! And, we were also in a small city motel in the off season, so things at the motel were largely pretty quiet for us.
Our homecoming after such a long and stressful trip was one of the best for Rugby. I’m not sure he ever thought that he would see his familiar home and yard again. When I carried him in the house after being gone for so long, I’ll never forget Rugby’s joyful response! He raced through the house…on the furniture….off the furniture….lots of very excited barking and piggie grunting! That’s a memory I know I’ll never forget! (I wrote a series of eight blog posts entitled “Rugby’s Big Adventure” if you want to read the fine details of our trip).
Summer Storm Damage to our Home
In July, we had a series of bad storms roll through, and tree limbs took out our fence and a tree fell on our house! For days after that, Rugby’s quiet house and yard became a beehive of activity with insurance adjusters and contractors in and out of the house all day….every day. He did not cope well with any or all of that ordeal, which was no surprise. We got through the experience, and Rugby was hoarse for a few days, and that was that! ( I wrote a three part series called “In Which Stormy Weather Hits Home” if you want to read more details about our experience).
Rugby has never been a fan of being groomed in general. Baths, being brushed, nail trims, etc. are never anything that are fun at our house. Rugby tolerates all of it at best, and it’s always a bit of an ordeal. In the past several months, I have switched to a battery powered dremel tool to trim Rugby’s nails, and he will allow me to do them by myself now! The new dremmel is so very quiet, and I don’t think it gets as warm on his nails, so he’s able to tolerate it much, much better! I don’t generally get all of them done on the same day, but it’s huge progress that he lets me do them all by myself, and stays reasonably calm about it! I can see a day coming where he will allow me to do them all on one day and that’s huge progress for this little dog!
Rugby just had his annual vet visit in early December. I’ve been doing some friendly vet visits for several weeks in preparation for his exam, and that investment of time and energy has really paid off nicely! My vet said that she thinks that this was his best visit yet! He allowed me to put him on the exam table, which he normally won’t do at all. He did get a little growly in a couple of situations, but I’m blessed to have a vet who lets me call the shots (no pun intended) and she backs right off when I see that Rugby needs space. As a result, Rugby has learned that I have his back, and he trusts me when he gets scared at the vet. The friendly vet visits will continue in the upcoming year and I hope that Rugby will become good friends with the staff….which would be a wonderful occurrence for them all!
One last thing that has changed in this past year is sure to make you smile! It’s how Rugby signals to let me know that he has to potty. In our first home, Rugby always went to the sliding back door and pawed like crazy. Then we moved to a split foyer home, and he began to bark at me, since the sliding back door was on the lower level. We now live in a ranch home, and he’s continued to bark to me to let me know when he wants to go outside.
When it’s evening, and he needs to poop, he will often grab the leg of my jeans and start to tug really hard. That’s a clear signal that he really has to go, and he’s not kidding! He only does it at nighttime, and it’s random, but at least once weekly.
Lately, he’s begun barking at the back door when he wants to go out! He’s done it far too many times for it to be coincidence, but it’s not frequently enough that it’s become a habit yet. Why or how he has decided to do things differently is anyone’s guess! It’s hit or miss at the moment, but it’s very interesting to me to see how this signal has made changes and progressed over the nine years that Rugby has lived with me. This alone is reason enough to never give up on him! His behaviors are always in flux, and he learns new things and changes day in and day out….in baby steps!