A Visit With Otis!

I have been missing Otis a lot the past three weeks. His new dad stays in touch with happy updates, questions, silly pictures, etc. – which I absolutely love. One day in between pictures of Otis stealing pillows and stories of his other silly antics, R brought up that I should come visit.

Of course I wanted to visit Otis. I’ve been wanting to see him since ten minutes after he got adopted. But I know he’s in a sensitive transition time, and I don’t want to confuse him or mess up his progress. R continually assured me that he thought Otis would be fine because he had adjusted so well and seemed pretty settled in. I agreed to stop by exactly three weeks after Otis went to this new home.

I was still torn on how I wanted the visit to go. Selfishly, I wanted Otis to be as excited to see me as he always has been – but a more sensible side of me wanted the opposite. You see, when Otis was with me last summer I watched him interact with his previous owner after I’d had him for about two weeks. He acted like he had never met that person in his life; he was totally indifferent towards him. I took this to mean that Otis could only be attached to one person at a time. Therefore, if he was very happy to see me when I visited him, I was worried it would mean he wasn’t attached to R yet. So I was ready for anything.

When I stopped by, R and Otie were in the garage working on cars. As I walked up, Otis started to act like he would if I was a stranger: backing up, some barking – I’d seen it all before. I crouched down and said, “Hi you big scary guard dog,” and that is when he recognized me – and totally lost it. He went ballistic and was so excited to see me, just like before. In that moment, I was the happiest foster mom of all time. Here was my foster dog, who I have been missing so much, acting like he’s missed me just the same. It was amazing. Then, my fears about Otie’s adjustment were extinguished as Otis ran up to R as if he were saying, “Look who came to visit!” It was the cutest thing of all time.

The reunion explosion continued for about five minutes and ended with Otis running back and forth between me and R in excitement. We took the party into R’s place and posted up on the couch. Otis immediately plopped himself in between us, doing his usual overbearing face-kissing routine alternatively to me and R. R and I caught up and talked about all things Otis, while Otie finally settled down and snuggled up between us.

If I could have written up the best outcome for a post-adoption visit with Otis, this would have been it. I got to see for myself just how happy he is with R. They are such a great pair, going everywhere and doing everything together. R seems to have become just as attached as I was (yay! yay! yay!).

They’ve got their routine down, and Otis is right at home. So much of Otie’s quirks and personality that I came to know also show up in the things him and R do together.

In fact, there were a few things that stood out, showing just how secure Otis now feels around R. He’s doing zoomies and he’s being brave enough to meet (and play with!) the shy little dog next door.

One of the best indications of progress is how much obedience training he and R have been working on together – and they haven’t even gone to a class yet. R has gotten Otis very good at focusing on him, and they’re mastering many of the basics. R has even taught Otis how to catch treats in his mouth. This may seem like a no brainer for a dog, but let me tell you – Otis really struggled with this when he was with me. It just didn’t occur to him to catch the treat, and would let it hit him in the head every single time. Look at how well he and R work together (disclaimer: the usual squealing occurs in this video):

I’m beyond glad that I listened to R and went to visit Otis. I got to experience the best of both worlds: Otis recognized me, and yet he very clearly loves his new life.

Reason #7038334 to foster!

Four on the Floor, Please

Many of you with energetic, happy dogs know what it’s like when you come home and they are just SO EXCITED to see you. It can often involve (and this list, of course, is for the ones lacking suitable manners – aka many of my dogs at some point or another) jumping, trying to lick your face, happy tails knocking over anything within reach, paws on work clothes, etc. You get the idea? For a lot of dogs, jumping is the first reaction when excited and Otis was no exception.

Otis is really great at home all day by himself because he just sleeps on the couch, but then all of his saved up energy seems to be let out in an excitable explosion of happy dog, happy tail, and happy feet when I arrive home.  Please see Exhibit A from Paws in the Park when Otis saw me for the first time that day:

When Honey Bunches first came to my house, his previous owner warned me of his big hefty paws and the damage his claws could innocently do. My solution? Teach him not to jump! Now there are many different opinions out there about what is the best method to fix this (just like with everything else). I want to take a minute to remind you I’m not a professional anything, so what I’m going to talk about is mostly just from my own experiences.

The approach that I of course wanted to steer very clear of was using any sort of physical means to stop him: kneeing, kicking, shoving, whatever. The problem with this is that – among other things – the dog will slowly get used to this force, and you will have to increase what you do over time. Soon you will end up booting your dog in the face! Not really, but you get the point. Negative attention for a dog is still attention, so this method doesn’t work well because technically they’re still getting what they want. Plus, the idea of hurting Otis in the name of obedience totally irks me, so I went a different route.

What Otis is craving the most when I come home is acknowledgement and attention, which makes it pretty easy to show him what I want and don’t want. When I walk in and he starts jumping up to say hi, I completely ignore him. He is bouncing off the walls around me, but I don’t look at him, I don’t talk to him, and I even turn my body away from him. I walk in the door and put my things down and pretend he is not there, then as soon as he calms down with four feet on the floor, I give him calm praise. No big, “Yay, good job! Good boy!” because that just sets him off again. Just a calm, “Hi Otie,” and a pat on the head. It’s acknowledgement, so it’s good enough for him.  Soon he learns that in order to get my attention, he has to calm down. He has (for the most part) stopped jumping up on me when I get home.

This took a few days of trial and error of Otis still jumping up when I got home, but when he picked up on what I wanted, he caught on quick.  Like I’ve mentioned before, positive reinforcement training – so ignoring the bad and praising the good – has worked very well with Otis and his sensitive little soul.  It’s tough to remember in every day life though. As you can see in the video, I still say hi to him when he is jumping up, therefore reinforcing the behavior, so we’re still working on things – but we’ve made progress in this area and others. When he first tried to jump up on the bed I did the same thing: he put his paws on the bed to get up and I immediately turned away and ignored him, and as soon as he hopped back down I gave him a lot of praise. He caught on quickly that the bed was not somewhere he was welcome, and definitely not somewhere he was going to get attention.

It’s tough on these blogs to highlight dogs in their best light as great adoptable pets without making them out to be flawless dogs. All dogs (except those of you with perfect ones :-)) have things they need to work on. While foster homes aren’t responsible for creating the perfect pet, it is important to tell potential adopters what they should expect from an animal. For Otis, I will do as much as I can to tell them about his excitement and how to handle it. For Baxter, it was telling them about his need for space. Every dog has their “quirks”, and adopters are allowed to have a threshold of what they’re comfortable dealing with or not – which is why it is important to disclose as much information about a dog as you can.  If they really love the dog, they’ll be willing to put in the effort – if they’re not, they’re probably a better match for someone else. That’s the beauty of setting up animals with the perfect family.

Channeling his inner Sir Chick.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to check out more about him and how to get in touch.