Time to Get Seriously Social


This summer is FLYING by. There is so much to do. But there’s one task right under my nose that hasn’t been getting done, that HAS to get rolling: socializing “Mommy,” the Dachshund/Chihuahua-mix I’ve been fostering for . . . gosh, I don’t even know how long.

Let’s see, I went to the shelter looking for a puppy to photograph for an article in the June issue, and we put that together in April . . . When I saw this cute little mommy dog trying valiantly to protect and raise her tiny, single, three-week-old puppy in the shelter, I immediately asked if I could foster them both. I took them home that day.

I didn’t do that much with the mother dog while she was busy raising her baby; they needed to be together. But the puppy was adopted a month ago . . . and while I do take the mother everywhere I take my two dogs, and have her practice the minor daily behaviors I ask them for – come, sit, down, “food bowl wait,” go potty on cue (for pee breaks during the day), hop in the car, get out of the car – I haven’t been focusing solely on her social skills, and she needs remedial work. Is it possible this dog has been here for almost four months, and still hasn’t really met that many people?

I hate to admit it, but yes. The poor little dog doesn’t even have a proper name, yet! It should be something that sort of rhymes with Mommy, though, because she responds really well to that; since she’s been spayed, though, and not going to have to be a mommy anymore, I really want her to have a nice identity of her own.

And that’s the challenge, for two reasons: First, because my local shelter, like so many, is full of Chihuahua-mixes in every shape and color. This “type” of dog is so common that it’s hard for people to be able to pick a really nice one out of a crowd. But this is a very sweet, smart, funny little dog. She’s completely nonreactive to my cats and chickens, and is happy to ignore any other dog as long as they ignore her. If, on a walk, we encounter a yapping, hysterical little dog, or a barky, giant dog on the other side of a fence we are trying to walk past, she sidles calmly to my far side, looks a little blinky, but doesn’t engage with the dog and certainly doesn’t get hysterical herself. She bonds with whoever takes care of her very quickly and tightly, and just sort of goes with the flow.

That said, the second challenge to getting her adopted is the way she “shows” to new people; she’s afraid of new faces and voices. She cowers and tries to hide, and if she’s really trapped and someone comes on very strong, she will growl a little. I’m having every member of my family and every visitor to my office give her treats when they come, and she’s improved a LOT – but I don’t have nearly as many friends coming by as needed to super-socialize her. And I haven’t made an effort to take her out to parks and public spaces where I could work on some dedicated counter-conditioning and desensitization. But that’s what I need to do to get her comfortable enough to be able to find a new home.

So, be it resolved: She’s the project of the month. But, would you help me out with a name?