Playing Fetch With Yourself . . . If You’re a Dog

2020-01-06 – This is a picture of my dog Rebe trying to carry a stick that is larger than she is.

Rebe is a rescue dog, so we don’t know much about her background. We have decided that she is part Carolina dog and part Australian cattle dog. Even the idea that she is part Carolina dog is kinda vague. The breed itself is not well established and really derives from feral dogs in the American South. So Carolina dogs are a breed of nonpedigree animals.

But don’t take my word on this. I don’t know anything about dogs.

According to the shelter where we got her, Rebe is from Alabama. The shelter has a facility in Alabama that rescues dogs there and sends them elsewhere for adoption.

The moment of their rescue is what I would call the “event horizon.” If you know anything about astrophysics, an event horizon is a feature of a black hole that prevents outsiders from knowing what, if anything is going on inside.

Rebe’s event horizon is metaphorical. What we know about her prior life can only be inferred from her current behavior. We don’t know whether she had an owner or was wild, though we can guess that she had an owner based on the fact that she was mostly house trained when she came to us.

She also was afraid of stairs, particularly narrow stairways. What could that mean? Did something dreadful happen to her on a stairway?

We’ll never know. What we do know is that she is now 99% unafraid of stairs. The 1% returns if we are in an unfamiliar setting, but is not the problem that her original phobia was, considering the fact that we live in a two-story house . . . with stairs.

Rebe came to us about 6 months ago and was estimated to be 8 months old at the time.

In addition to being afraid of stairs, she was very soft spoken. That is to say that we didn’t hear her bark for the first couple months she was with us. Her only sounds were some whimpering and something that might have been a growl, but both were barely audible. She now is much more free in letting us hear her vocalizations, but she’s still pretty quiet.

We have been through two training classes with her. (The first class was on the second floor, so the need to desensitize her to stairs was doubly important. I spent a few weeks going up and down with her on the wide stairs at the school across the street, and, of course, giving her lots of treats for that.) Rebe’s been maybe a C+ student in these classes, but she’s progressed to the point that, last month, she earned her Canine Good Citizen award.

And she still apparently has some fond memories of a prior life in the wilds. Whenever we pass a hole in the dark soil (the black hole), she tries to dig wildly to get at whatever critter might be in the hole (trying to obliterate the event horizon). During warmer weather, there was a place in the park where she apparently smelled something wild and transformed herself into a wild dog herself with aspirations of flight. (I don’t mean fleeing us. I mean actual flight. She would jump into the air as if she might be able to escape the bonds of gravity.)

And she likes to drag sticks around. That’s the picture at the beginning of this blog. The bigger the better. If she can get them off the ground, watch out! She likes to twirl them and play catch with herself. She can whack your legs, if you get too close. I try to play fetch with the animal, but she seems to prefer doing it herself.

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