I — Lucy’s hoomin — have started this blog to track Lucy’s progress, pass on tips I find useful, and hear from others who have dealt with issues similar to ours.
Let this be a warning to all of you out there thinking about bring a dog into your home: Do not buy a puppy from a pet store or kennel (retail outlets for puppy mills).
Unfortunately for me but very fortunately, I think, for Lucy, I did.
The only other dogs I had were James and Patty, Cocker spaniels from home-raised litters and half siblings (same father). Patty’s mother was owned by the same person as their father, all of whom I had known for several years before James was born. They were absolutely wonderful, easy dogs, with (almost) impeccable manners.
Old age having taken James and Patty two years ago, I had been searching the internet and the local shelters for a new canine companion with no luck. When I saw Lucy’s picture at the website of a kennel an hour away, I knew she was what I had been looking for. I was blinded to the reality of what I was getting myself into by how completely adorable she looked.
When I met her that first day, I knew she was going to be a challenge. Lucy was completely wild with excitement when the kennel employee brought her and a female Cocker puppy into the office, racing around, jumping on me and the other puppy, and grabbing at me with her mouth. She must have had rare opportunity to interact with humans or other animals — a particular hardship for a dog like Lucy.
Her life wasn’t what it should have been for those critical first three months. I am still discovering how extensive her deficits are.
When I first brought Lucy home, I had really forgotten the specifics of day-to-day the first month I had James (Patty didn’t arrive till he was 18 months old and she looked to big brother for cues). At that time I lived in a third-floor walk-up apartment on Queensberry Street in Boston, so we spent most of our time inside with frequent trips down to the sidewalk for potty breaks. Housebreaking James was a snap. I don’t think he had more than two “accidents” and was reliable very quickly. Remember, your puppy doesn’t physically have the capacity to hold it for extended periods when awake, so be sure to stick to a regular schedule of breaks, increasing the time in between as you become confident that the puppy can handle it. Housebreaking is not just about your puppy learning that messing indoors is inappropriate.
Since I live in a house on a 1/8-acre fenced lot, I figured Lucy and I would spend our play time outside and that she would be crated when we came inside until I was sure she understood that pooping and peeing are outdoor activities. Well, duh. I’m not too smart sometimes. I didn’t understand Lucy’s lack of socialization. It never occurred to me that time inside was more important than time outside.
Our Gracie was also a factor in my decision to restrict Lucy to the living room and her crate. Gracie was definitely opposed to having this insane jumping bean come anywhere near her, and I wanted to respect that. Transition can be hard. I puppy-proofed my house but didn’t let Lucy run around and explore on her own and it didn’t occur to me to put her on a leash and let her lead me around while she checked things out.
As a result, it took me quite a while to discover how much desensitizing we will be doing. Lucy is scared of all kinds of things, like cardboard boxes, plastic shopping bags and unusual noises, like a magazine falling on the floor or the things being dragged across the floor. And she doesn’t particularly like the kitchen. I can only assume there is something about the sound of the refrigerator that bothers her, even though it’s very quiet. The dishwasher can be heard in the living room but she isn’t disturbed by that at all.
A fear of Lucy’s that I discovered early on is motor vehicle traffic.
In my excitement to have a new exercise partner (having gone from a size 8 to 16 in the two years without James and Patty), it never occurred to me that Lucy would be frightened by motor vehicles whizzing by in the street!
How could I be so clueless?
It was not until after our first failed attempt that I remembered that, when James and Patty were little, we lived on a quiet, one-traffic lane, one-way street. I was asking Lucy to walk ten feet from two lanes of cars, trucks and motorcycles going past at 30 to 40 miles an hour.
Lucy’s puppy kindergarten teacher gave me some good advice — sit with her on the porch and feed her treats when vehicles are going by. Lucy’s fear decreased quickly. Once she figured out hanging out near the street meant treats!, she started asking to go watch the traffic.
At the end of Lucy’s second week here, my brother came for a visit. On the first or second day, while I was out running an errand, he took her for a walk to the corner (three houses down) and back. She did very well!
A week later he dropped a magazine on the floor in the living room and we were back to square one, but that setback only lasted 24 hours. Lucy and I are now taking walks up and down the full block, with occasional forays a half a block farther. She is still a bit fearful sometimes, and I realized earlier today that we should go back to hanging out at the end of the driveway in addition to the short walks, but we are making great progress!
There is still so much to tell about Lucy. Did I mention how completely adorable she is?
Stay tuned for more adventures of Lucy The Wonder Dog and her hoomin.