We spent most of Saturday at the motel, waiting to hear how Mom was doing. We knew that they were running a battery of tests on her, and when that wasn’t happening, she needed to rest, so we didn’t go to the hospital so that she would get the rest she really needed. And, truth be told….we needed some rest too! We were all pretty worn after two days of driving and then pulling a surprise all-nighter at the hospital!
So we napped and watched TV, and snacked and snuggled with Rugby. He was starting to understand the motel room as his home away from home. He was making bed jumping an Olympic event, and seemed to delight in bouncing back and forth over and over. For the most part, he wasn’t too barky, and during the day, things were fairly quiet, so he was as relaxed as he could get being in a motel room away from his beloved home and yard. As much as I could, I took his Thundershirt off of him to let him relax, and hoped that he would be interested in playing with his beloved piggies, but he mostly just looked at them. He seemed happy to have them along, but he wasn’t grunting them much, and “Pig Toss” was nothing he was interested in at all. He just wanted to snuggle as close as he could get to me.
I found a wonderful place to walk him that was pretty safe and secluded. There was a large, long stretch of good grass that was protected from a lot of things that would trip his triggers. On one side was the back side of the motel, and all of the other sides were farm fields. He could see some traffic, and did think he could chase and bark at cars on occasion, but for the most part, there really wasn’t anything to trip his triggers, so I got opportunities to walk him in this space to help give him a little exercise. It was nice to get outside, and some fresh air, and let him sniff and explore!
One time, while I was walking him, he found something in the farm field that set him off and he lunged and barked and lunged and barked, over and over. He was working himself up into a frantic state, and for the life of me I couldn’t see anything that should have been a problem. There was nothing new….no animals, no birds, no people….it was a mystery to me. The closest that I could tell, is that he saw a white plastic grocery bag caught on a fence post flapping in the wind, and decided that it seemed threatening to him! That same plastic bag had been there for several days, but apparently this was the day that Rugby decided that he didn’t like it!
By evening, Mom was released from the hospital, and the diagnosis was stress. Fortunately, they hadn’t been able to determine any other cause for her chest pain, so Michael picked her up from the hospital, and we met them at Mom’s house. Michael’s brother and his wife had arrived from South Carolina, so I knew that Rugby was going to have to adjust to more new people all over again! A sweet neighbor had made a yummy potato soup for us for dinner, so we planned to just enjoy being family together, and enjoy our time with Mom!
We followed our now familiar pattern of crate for a bit to let him hear the new voices, and then he came out of his crate on leash to hang out and see them for a bit, and then I did some tricks to occupy his mind so that he would ignore them and focus on something good….earning tidbits of Salmon! He made a good transition, with little barking, and fairly calm body language. As long as no one looked at him or talked to him, he stayed calm and focused on me pretty well. He was familiar with the kitchen and den, and I sat in the same chair each time, so he was seeing a consistent pattern for visits at Mom’s house.
I was so pleased that Rugby was starting to understand that we would go from the motel to Mom’s, back and forth, and he was managing that transition pretty well. Each time we made a trip one way or the other, as I held him in my arms in the car, he shook like a leaf, wondering what would happen to him next. He often also did his nervous, anxious little chirpy sounds that tell me he is very worried. I wished I could help him relax, but that’s just not in the picture for Rugby, so the best that I could hope for, was to help him just understand that I wouldn’t leave him.
Rugby did very well with the new people at Mom’s and was starting to recognize and remember Mom. He tolerated her moving anywhere in the house, coming in and out of rooms and didn’t startle or bark when he saw her. She continued to ignore him, so he felt safe with her, and seemed to understand that she would be predictable and leave him alone!
He was starting to get comfortable with her back yard, which butted up to an open corn field. It really was the perfect place for him, and it was easy to walk him and have confidence that he wouldn’t run into a stray dog or human. It was chilly enough that neighbors weren’t out on either side, so we had the back yard all to ourselves! However, Mom’s neighbor’s have some deer lawn ornaments, about the size of a medium dog, and Rugby was convinced that in the dark, those two little deer were really out to get him, so anytime he saw them, he had to bark and let them know that he was going to take them down! I carefully avoided that end of the yard when it was time to walk Rugby, and shielded his eyes when I would load him up in the car.
We were now four days into our journey and I felt as if Rugby James was doing so very well overall. I felt guilty taking him from his beloved home, and causing him such stress, but I tried to tell myself that this was also a wonderful opportunity to work on stretching him out of his comfort zone and helping him adapt to some new things too. I knew it wouldn’t be for forever, but the problem was, Rugby didn’t know that.
Because dogs live in the now of life, I could see that he looked at me with eyes that questioned why I had taken him from everything that he had ever known, and the wondering of what would happen since nothing in our current life was predictable or consistent for him. It was a helpless feeling knowing that there was no way to help him understand any of it. I could only hope that our trust-building work and training would pay off and that he would feel as safe as possible with no lasting negative side effects once we did get home.