Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thunder Meets Devil Dog

Thunder Meets Devil Dog

Last summer, our wonderful dog, Pollie, passed on. She was the most perfect, best dog, ever. It was heartbreaking. In fact, my heart is still broken, and I still miss her, so much.

I didn’t really want another dog. I’m not really a dog person to begin with, and I knew we would never find one as perfect as Pollie. Thunder, the cat, and I were perfectly content with the way things were.

I live with my dad—the dog person. Our fates changed the day my dad went to the doctor. When the doctor asked him if he had any questions, my dad replied, “Do you think I should get a dog?” The doctor said, “Yes.” My life was ruined.

Dad wanted one as much like Pollie as possible. Pollie was a Sheltie mix. I went to Petfinders. I couldn’t find a dog at all like Pollie under the Shelties. I decided to try Border Collies. There was a young female listed at a cat rescue in our area. Her name was Maggie. What attracted me to her was the cat lying down in the background. As I am looking at the ad, my office mate’s radio started playing the song, “Maggie” by Rod Stewart. Was that a good sign? It sure was weird.

A few days later, I sent in an application for approval. As I was writing my sister in an email about it, that song came on, again. It was really getting weird.

Through emails and phone calls, we worked things out and a couple weeks later, they delivered her to our house. She was the right size—30 pounds, friendly and incredibly cute. We said we would take her. They said she was good with cats. That was the most important thing to me. Thunder is my best buddy, and I wanted him to be happy. He liked Pollie, even if Pollie was indifferent to him. He would stalk and pounce her.

Now, here comes one more weird thing. I asked the volunteer where she was found, and I couldn’t believe it—Train Avenue. That’s where Pollie was found all those years ago. If you are a westsider of Cleveland, you would know Train Avenue. It is a spooky, mostly deserted street with train tracks, trash and a few businesses. The cat shelter feeds feral cats and does trap/neuter/release with any cats they don’t think can be adopted. They found her, gave her some food and as they left, she chased the van. She didn’t want to be alone.

The first thing she did was chase Thunder through the house. He was so fearful. He ran upstairs to my bedroom. I had the stairs blocked so a cat could go up, but a dog couldn’t. He didn’t come down until the evening. When she found him, he panicked and ran. Like all dogs, she chased. It was awful. He was so scared, and I was so upset. There was another incident the next day that was just as bad.

Now, Thunder has never been known for his bravery. He is quite the chicken cat. I was starting to think he would be living upstairs forever. I moved up his litter boxes, food, cat furniture and toys. We were both miserable. I thought I made the biggest mistake of my life.

With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, we came up with a possible plan. We have a hallway that leads to a couple rooms and my bathroom. I would block it with the fireplace screen, and put him there so he could see her, yet still be safe. It might help to desensitize him. I would work with him in short sessions and then let him back upstairs.

In the meantime, she needed to learn some manners. I got out my trusty clicker and taught her to lie down and to stay. It only took a couple lessons. The first day I tried our experiment, I worked with the dog on the far end of the house. Thunder got curious and sat on the safe side of the screen and watched. I brought her closer and he was okay with it. As long as she behaved, he would watch.

Each time, I got closer. Eventually, I clicked and treated the dog for lying quietly by the screen. Thunder just watched. On the second day of training, he asked to come out. I opened the screen, held the dog and he walked around her to go up the stairs. The dog got a lot of treats.

A week after we got the dog, I was brushing my teeth at night. The screen was in place, but open enough for me to get in. Thunder was upstairs. The phone rang, and I ran to get it. It was dark, and I didn’t see the screen—I ran straight into it and fell. The answering machine got the call before me. I told Kevin to call back. I waited. The dog went into the bathroom. I called her to come out and she did, but she went back and started making funny noises. I went to investigate and found Thunder cornered in the bathtub! He must have come down when I was brushing my teeth to visit me. I rescued him.

From that day, things got steadily better. I wonder if Thunder, since he was cornered, had to defend himself and found out the dog wouldn’t hurt him if he showed her his claws? He started coming downstairs when the dog wasn’t in the living room and skittering up when she found him. He spent a lot of time watching her from the safety of the stairs—studying. Thursday morning, he sniffed her nose. Thursday evening he spent downstairs with me whenever he felt safe. Friday, he was downstairs even more.

Saturday, he gently pounced her. Later in the day, he charged her with claws flying and she backed off. From that point, he no longer acted afraid. If she was too pushy, he growled. He spent a lot of time sniffing her. He made friendly gestures. She tried puppy play position. He didn’t understand and growled. There is a definite language problem.

On Halloween, he was no longer a scaredy cat. In 2 weeks, he made an amazing transformation. Maggie seems to ignore him unless I am paying attention to him. It is something we will have to work with. I am hoping to be able to play games with him downstairs, someday. Everything was a success. I really think they will end up being friends. Maybe that song was a good omen.

Dad has his dog, and I have a much braver cat. In fact, he seems all full of himself. Cats are amazing, adaptable creatures.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Yay for Thunder! I didn't even think of that being a way to give him more confidence. It sure sounds like it did.

I knew they would get along. It just takes some time. I wish I could see a video of them interacting. That sounds absolutely adorable with her bowing to him and him growling. I guess I had never really thought of a language barrier between species. Interesting. :)