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From Snap to Sugar Snap

Sugar-Snap_park_Susie_Susan_8-09 Sugar-Snap_Susan_8-09

Someone had named her “Snap.”

And snap she did, as close to the rear corner of her kennel as she could possibly be, from anyone who approached her in any way, lunging, baring teeth, growling. So utterly fearful of absolutely everyone — had her former people named her Snap because they thought it was funny to see such a tiny little dog acting so ferociously? Someone clearly had made this little girl act incredibly aggressively towards people — for one of those insane reasons we don’t even want to guess at.

But we had something different in mind for her. And lots of experience with good instincts based on former successes. I waited her out. I would pass by her kennel and say hello to her without looking at her a few times a day. I would open her kennel door, and again, without looking at her, place some tasty morsels on the floor, close the door quietly and leave.

Then I spent short increments of time laying down as far away from her as I could be and ignored her. I did not lift my limbs, I moved very slowly, and not towards her. Using a lot of the calming techniques of Turid Rugas, such as keeping my body relaxed, soft yawning, quiet lip smacking, and never looking directly at her.

I upped the ante slowly, letting her feel safe enough to initiate an approach. At first, of course, there would be slight movements towards me with lots of darting retreats. Gradually, very gradually, her approaches became closer and she began eating treats in front of me, then from my hand. I still did not make eye contact with her, keeping my head lowered and facing away from her.

When I first touched her, I still did not face her directly, but let my hand drift towards her neck, speaking softly and cheerfully, saying her name a lot, and letting the tips of my fingers wiggle playfully just the tiniest bit. It worked. She was ready. My hand came towards her, always touching the blanket, and I never lifted it until I reached her neck and then I reached up to underneath her neck where she could see it. I stroked her gently and she stayed. Oh, baby.

That was the beginning of our love affair. It went slowly for a while and then she made the leap. Suddenly I was the apple of her eye, the person who made her twirl with happiness and jump for joy, who made her heart sing. She trusted someone. She found out about love. And how!!!

Then it was time for others to do the same thing. She needed to continue to grow and expand. She decided that was a good thing to do, although it took time with each new person, with each new place, and with each new dog whom she encountered. She met each challenge with suspicion and wariness and perhaps she always will.

Someone changed her name to Sugar Snap. Perfect. A little ( 🙂 ), or a lot (!), of each, our baby has finally made it out of the kennel where she began her transition into the dog she will become.

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