Last month Louie helped us overcome fear with a story about barking at real estate signs. This month he’s back at it with a little habit he’s developed to sooth himself after being lonely that does not involve a dry Savingnon Blanc. I don’t know who’s son this dog is, but I’m impressed with his style.
When we brought Louie home at eight weeks old he couldn’t be left for a second. We created a little habitat for him inside our living room with thick foam core and packing tape. I don’t have a picture of that anymore because it took over my entire apartment for four months and I never want to see it again. Anyway, inside the 5×5 foot area were some blankets, a wee-wee pad (technical term, not mine), toys, his food & water bowl and his crate.
Louie was too small to see over the top of the cardboard castle walls so the minute we left the area for even a second he would lose his mind. He would scream and cry and eventually try to jump out of the space. This is natural for a puppy that’s just been separated from mom and siblings. They fear they’re being left alone and react instinctually by screaming to be saved. Yes, it is DEVASTATING – so much so that you may move your adult body into the contained area to do all of your writing work all day long for months, but the contained area and full crate training (read all about that and do it with your puppy!) helps the puppy overcome that separation anxiety and eventually adjust to being left alone.
We started easing Louie into that independence by leaving him for short periods of time in his crate with the door closed. Eventually that progressed to longer periods of time until we were able to leave Louie for an hour, then two, then three, etc. He yelped at first (our neighbors reported), but adjusted quickly, and soon we were coming home to a calm puppy.
But Louie started to do something funny after we would come back from about an hour or more time away. We would open his crate door and he would emerge with a favorite toy in his mouth. By this point one or both of us were sitting cross-legged beside the crate to be at his level for a hello. With toy in mouth Louie would crawl directly into one of our laps (fine, first R’s, then eventually mine too) and chew on his toy with his Chewbacca paws, silently. Two to three minutes later he would crawl out and scurry away, done, apparently.
Once this habit started, it never stopped. Without fail Louie would step out with toy, step directly into the closest lap and chew, happy as a clam that is a dog. If there wasn’t a toy that he wanted inside the crate he would trot off to find the toy of his choice and then bring that right back to the lap of his choice (fine, mostly R’s, but mine enough). It was like he needed to little bit of time so, so close to us after all that time apart to get himself back to zero.
We figured the habit would stop after the crate went away, or as he got older and more comfortable with being alone. The screaming and barking went away. We can now leave Louie for hours without him making a peep (unless there is a cat visible from our patio in which case Louie apologizes to the entire Beverly Adjacent community for however long his vocal onslaught lasts). But to this day every single time we come home he rushes off to get the toy, bone or chew of his choosing then rushes back with the selected item in mouth and a, “why aren’t you sitting down to receive me?” look on his face. Every time. It is just another one of his many peccadilloes.
But like the brave single bark, I get the chew-in-laps hello. He missed us. He likes us. He loves to be close. So after a few hours away he just wants a little lovin’, like he likes it. What Louie has down that the rest of us could probably work on is how to express that need. Whether it’s a lonely patch, a rough day or a sad hour, leaning on the lap (or more likely shoulder) of someone else can be a soothing remedy. My problem is usually that I’m too proud to ask. Louie doesn’t do proud (unless it’s related to the toilet paper he just stole from the bathroom trash can); that’s why he always gets what he needs (also the puppy dog eyes help).
Thanks Lou. See ya on the floor in a few hours.