Sophie. [Sigh]

Greyhound related January 6th, 2013

Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Five months in, and we’ve got a better sense of her personality.  Sophie has the waggiest tail I’ve ever seen on a dog, and it’s going all the time — when she’s anticipating a walk, or food, or playtime, one of which she seems to be expecting fully 85% of the time.  She’s a wicked fast learner who swears she never had a problem with the dog door.  You can handle her — paws, tail, the works — with impunity, including when she’s asleep and I grope her in the middle of the night to figure out where her head is before I cover her with a blanket.  (Yes, my dogs wear coats and sleep under blankets.  My house is 87 years old and retains heat like a lizard in a refrigerator.)

Sophie eats with gusto and works for kibble.  She gets along well with dogs of all shapes and sizes and adores the dog park, where she learned rapidly that checking in with me earns her a handful of food, and I learned rapidly that it doesn’t matter how well you hide the dog food — most dogs are good with their noses.  (The things you forget when you have sighthounds. . . )  Sophie, actually, is exceptionally good with her nose, and is fascinated by kitchen smells, especially if they’re meaty.  We think she’d do great with nose work, and we’d love to enroll her in a class, except. . .

. . . she’s crazy.

Crazy.  My dog trainer, Nancy, who we are now seeing weekly, says Sophie is “neophobic.”  This means Sophie is afraid of anything new, which, unfortunately for me, encompasses a great number of things. Mannequins in a store window.  Automatic doors.  Leaves blowing down the street.  Bicycles, and worse, the people on them. Bricklayers.  Our suitcase.  The noise made by throwing a poop bag in the trash can.  Oh, and we mustn’t forget people.  Because Sophie is. terrified. of. people.

All people.

She doesn’t like people walking on the street, coming out of houses or cars, or going into (or out of) stores.  She doesn’t like  hearing people outside our house.  So you can imagine how much fun our Christmas Eve stay at the noisy, noisy Motel 6 in Ukiah was for everyone involved, what with the car doors slamming in the parking lot; and the room doors squeaking as they opened and closed; and the conversations in the hallway; and the 4 am departure that probably woke up all of Ukiah, it was so loud.  (Sophie was so upset, she drank an entire toilet full of water.  And yes, we had her water bowl available, but a toilet is at greyhound height, so. . . )

Between weekly training classes (Sophie has been promoted from Dogs with Concerns to Dogs with Less Concerns, so that’s progress, I suppose) and an eye-wateringly expensive behavioral consult at UCD resulting in a prescription for Zoloft (and I only wish I were kidding), we’re seeing some improvement.  Sophie has learned to look at me for reassurance (and treats), and is pretty well desensitized to everything we encounter on our walks. . . except people.  (We do a lot of walking in the dark.)  She’s willing to approach one of our trainers in class, provided it’s from the back, to eat string cheese from her hand.  In fact, Sophie has taken to approaching strangers in the dog park from behind and checking their hands for string cheese — I told you she was a fast learner.

When she’s not scared witless, Sophie has a bouncy enthusiasm that leads me to believe she’s hiding a happy, confident dog inside.  Want to start a pool on how long that transformation will take?  I’ll start the betting at two years.  (Sigh.)

3 Responses to “Sophie. [Sigh]”

  1. Jan Shawon 07 Jan 2013 at 9:35 am

    Oh Sophie, I am so sorry for you. I hope you can get more comfortable with the world and start to really enjoy life.

  2. Those Brindle Kidson 19 Jan 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I had no idea Sophie was a neophobe. The hound we just adopted is classified as a “special needs” dog. Some say he has idiopathic fear. Others say he’s a spook. It doesn’t matter, though, we wanted him and we love him. We’ll be consulting the behaviorists at Tufts Univ (via their vetfax program). The goal is to find ways to help him live a happy, less fearful and hopefully non-medicated life, or at least a less-medicated life. Prozac.
    Good luck with your Sophie. Sounds like she’s doing very well!

  3. kimon 23 Jan 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Funny, I didn’t realize Walter was a neophobe, either! Our goals for Sophie are pretty much the same as yours for him — as happy a life as we all can manage. She *is* making progress. . . slow and steady wins the race!

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