Saturday, September 7, 2013

Nilly: The Feral Princess

Nilly : A Feral Princess

By Sass

note: My apologies for the delay, a move to the Netherlands and a trip to Australia delayed this post. Also, the dates can be erratic. I would train with Nilly whenever I possibly could. 

I first meet Nilly November 26, 2012. Nilly is a four year old mixed breed female. We think should could be a Shepherd or Malinois mix. She is very lean and muscular. I met her just a few months after starting work at the Oahu SPCA. She was trapped at Sugar Mill (North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii), a wide open expanse of bush where the feral dogs own the land. After watching these dogs have litter after litter, a devoted few have made it their lives to catch and fix these furry friends. They know all the dogs and the back stories and relationships.

I was still new to the program when I met Nilly for the first time and she was not a happy puppy. I can understand why. She was in a dog trap, in a car, around people who she didn't trust and in a very strange place. One of the few people who work to trap around the area had Nilly in a large dog trap. It was evident from the start that Nilly wasn't going to let us put a leash on her to get her out of the trap. Nor was she going to cooperate with anything we were going to attempt to do. After three pain staking hours of maneuvering the trap into the puppy enclosure, numerous bites/snarls/snaps and getting the trap lined up to the kennel door (we couldn't get it into the kennel), Nilly begrudgingly left the sanctity of the trap. We thought it would be smooth sailing from there - we were wrong. Very wrong. That was just the beginning. That pack of band aids wouldn't be the only first aid I would needed courtesy of Nilly.

For the first few weeks, Nilly refused to eat. We tried every dry food we had at the shelter, and then we tried all the wet foods. We also went out and bought a few different sorts to see what tempted her. We tried different treats, hot dogs, cat food - the list goes on. Still nothing. She had to have been eating something, she wouldn't have survived. So we would leave the food bowls full of various things in her kennel over night and hope that she felt comfortable enough to eat. I had taken to sitting with Nilly (outside her kennel) every day just to see if I could convince her to have something to eat. It wasn't until mid December that I had decided to get myself McDonald's on my way into work. The lady at window had given me two hash browns instead of the one I ordered. So as I was sitting there talking to Nilly with my McDonald's - I thought "why not?" and I asked Nilly if she would like some hash brown. I swear I saw the ears perk up. Up until that point she would usually just ignore me and lie in the corner. If you went into her kennel she would growl and start pacing nervously. Today, I felt brave. I went in. Hash brown at the ready - I wanted her to know that I came in peace. I put the hash brown in her food bowl and left the kennel. Sure enough, she ate it. That was when I came to the realization that she probably didn't know what dog food was. She had lived in the wild for all her life. So, for many weeks following that day I would stop at McDonald's on my way to work and pick up breakfast for Nilly. Slowly, we introduced the dry and wet mix into her diet and she hasn't looked back. My bank account thanks her.

Not much changed over the following month, although she had started to eat regularly and had started to allow kennel cleaners in to the kennel - she wouldn't go near them or let them touch her. But they were allowed in with no problems. Combine that with the new diet - I considered that a win.

It became noticeable over the following weeks that we need to get some tick prevention on her. However, this seemed like an impossible task. She was covered; you could see them all over her. So we came up with this great plan to sedate her - it was a day that the Spay/Neuter clinic was running. So the plan was, the vet would sedate her early (with a pill treat) and I would come get them when she was down. That way they could de-tick, put flea/tick prevention on her and possibly spay her. About twenty minutes later, the Vet Tech came over to me and let me know that there was a slight problem. She wasn't taking any treats. She wouldn't take the tranquilizer. So I loaded up with every treat I could find and the tranquilizer and headed into her kennel. I put my load on the floor and took a seat. Nilly sat in the corner watching me - So one by one I tried every sort of treat I had. She had sniffed a few but had stoically rejected everything I had. I noticed that in my haste to gather treats (we only had a small window to get on the operating table) I had grabbed a tin of "Special Kitty" wet food. So I figured, why not. I opened it up, tapped a little onto the ground and buried the little pill. After moving away and mentally giving up - Nilly decided it smelt different and went to investigate. The vet had made an approximation on Nilly's weight - for the tranquilizer dose - and had told me that it would take about thirty minutes for it to take effect. After raising my head from my hands I noticed that the "Special Kitty" was gone and Nilly was licking her lips. Success. I left Nilly and let the Vet and Tech know that she had eaten it. I would check on her in half an hour and let them know. This was around 11:00am. 

My day went like this - 12:00pm Nilly is still awake. 12:30pm Nilly is still awake. 1:00pm Nilly is still awake. 1:30pm Nilly is still awake. 2:00pm Nilly is still awake. 2:30pm Nilly is still awake. 3:00pm Nilly is still awake. 3:30pm Nilly is still awake. 4:00pm Nilly is still awake. 4:30pm Nilly is still awake. 5:00pm Nilly is still awake. 5:30pm Nilly is still awake. 6:00pm Nilly is tired. 6:30pm Nilly is tired. 7:00pm Nilly is awake. What is this dog made of? There went that plan.

The weeks went by......she got into a routine. The dog walkers would give her treats and she would bark at them. Although, she did start licking people's hands through the fence of her kennel. Still, she never left her kennel.

I used to sit with her everyday. I would go into her kennel and just relax - even if it was just to check emails on my phone. The first few days she hated it and wouldn't settle down. By the end, she just lay down next to me. I would talk to her - tell her about my day or what was going on, I honestly thought she was listening.

On the 21st of May, 2013 we were talking about Nilly and what the plan of attack was. Someone suggested that we just drag her out of the kennel. It wasn't a life living in a kennel, barking at people that walk by. She deserved more. So, I said - "Ok. I'll do it". I finished my work for the day, grabbed my new leash (which I loved and was so proud of - it was bright pink) and went into the kennel. I did not realize what I was getting into - I should have remembered how stubborn this girl was. I also should not have used my new pink leash. All I will say is that it became a casualty of the battle of wills.

Below is daily chapter of what we achieved and how Nilly is doing. Nilly has become a very important part of my life - those that know me well, know that I am stubborn and very rarely give up on anything. So working with Nilly has been a battle of the stubborn. This is also a learning curve for me. I have made it my mission to read, Google, research and seek out as much information as possible to help guide Nilly into the world of the friendly dogs. I have bugged all of my trainer friends and dog rescuer resources in the hope that I can help Nilly and do what is needed and what is best for her.

5/21 Day 1 "The Pink Leash": This was my first day working with Nilly. My goal was very specific - get a leash around her neck. I sat in her kennel for a while, getting her comfortable with me. I had the leash just sitting beside me, moving it around. At first she was scared of the leash and its movement. After about thirty minutes, she calmed enough that I could start touching her with the leash. To cut a long story short, it took about two hours but as you can see from the picture, I managed to get a leash around her neck. That's when the fun began. To put it mildly, she was unhappy. She was throwing herself against the fence, on the ground, and screaming. Then she realized she could chew the leash. There was the end of my pink leash. After about thirty minutes of just being in her kennel with the leash on, she calmed down. Now, I had to get it off. That was just as difficult, she would bite if you got to close, although she didn't bite hard. Just a warning. After a little blood and the tattered remains of my pink leash I said my goodbyes and promised to come back the next day.
Day 2 - Exploring the Kennels

5/22 Day 2 "The World": We had an unbelievable accomplishment today. Nilly left her kennel after months ....she was very happy ....although got a little overcome by the world at the end. She walked straight out the door after only about thirty minutes of trying to get the leash on her. I let her explore the small kennel area. Then she wanted to go outside. So we did. I'm so proud of her. Once we were outside both kennel doors - I let her find somewhere she felt safe so we could just sit and watch the world. This was her first "place". She was nervous, but I could see her nose going crazy. After about fifteen minutes it was clear that she had had enough. So we walked straight inside and back into her kennel. She let me take the leash off with minimal stress - she does still try to bite when you get too close. Let's see how tomorrow goes.
Day 2 - Outside for the first time
Day 2 - Getting the Leash On. 
Day 2 - Finding her "place"

Day 3 - Exploring the Kennel Area
Day 3 - Getting more Confident
5/23 Day 3: Today, I let Nilly just be Nilly. I leashed her up and we just explored wherever she wanted to go. We explored every section of the small kennel area. She wanted to say hi to all the residents and smell every inch of the floor. Including under, over and behind all the kennels. Nilly is getting very confident being with me. She looks at me whenever I ask her to do something. She is learning the word "no". She still reacts to pressure on the leash with a small panic, but we are working on that. She will be very easy to work with once she is comfortable and trusts who she is with. 
Day 3 - My Cheeky Girl.

5/24 Day 4 "Leaving the Kennel": Nilly is still hesitant exiting and entering her kennel. I have to convince her to go out - coming in is super easy. I am also working with her on the fact that wherever she goes, I go too. So we went in and out of the kennel a dozen times. She learnt that she went in, I went in. She went out, I went out. In the end she ventured willingly outside but kept wanting to head back in. She did find a chair she liked. She kept wanting to stand on it.

Day 6
Day 6 - Nilly Gets Stuck
5/26 Day 6 "Hide and Seek": Nilly was confident today. She wanted to smell everything. She got a little brave which ended up with her getting a little stuck - there was a bed hanging from the kennel fence, she wanted to smell behind it and stuck. I managed to snap a picture. I don't think she was too happy with me taking a picture. Her character is starting to come out, she is goofy and fun. However, she is smarter than smart. I love learning who this girl is.

Day 7 - Sitting Calmly Beside Me for her Vaccination!

5/30 Day 7 "Vaccinations": Today was a very intense day for both of us, however the final outcome was success. Nilly is officially microchipped and vaccinated Score one to Sass. I have been very concerned with having her in the shelter unvaccinated. There are so many things that go through a shelter with as many animals as we have. I really just wanted to get her vaccinated. So we were sitting on our usually spot on the stairs - you should see them many times in the pictures. And she let me touch her a lot more than usual. As I was sitting there I was talking to the Rhea and I mentioned that maybe she would let me vaccinate her. So Rhea ran off to grab me what I needed. The first shot was super easy, Nilly was a rock star. She just let me do it - she looked at what I was doing and we were done. The second was a little more stressful, but still very easy. So, we thought - why not. Let's try for the microchip. THAT, was not as easy - but in the end she let me do it. I was over the moon happy. She is just coming along so fast.
5/31 Day 8 "Seeing The World": After her vaccination day, I decided to just to let her have fun and be a dog. She controlled where she went and what we did. The only thing she couldn't control was if I went with her - which I did. 
Day 8
Day 8

Day 8

Day 9 - Exploring
Day 8

Day 9 - Nilly's Favorite Fence
6/1 Day 9 "Just Chillin": We decided just to have fun smell day. We explored the grass, the kennels, the buildings. We had so much fun. 

6/2 Day 10 "Photo Day": Nilly wasn't feeling as confident today, everyone has rough days so I didn't push her hard. She was still feeling cheeky though. We went through our usual routine of entering and exiting the kennel a couple of times. Then we sat on the stairs before leaving the small kennel area. There was a volunteer photographer at the shelter and as we were sitting outside took a few snaps of Miss Nilly. She is certainly a very photogenic girl. She was interested in the camera and what they were doing - but wouldn't get too close.

Day 10 - Photo Day
Day 10 - Photo Day
6/5 Day 11 "A New Friend": Nilly willingly went all the way to the gate today. Even made a new friend in Cam - Cam was with us the entire walk. She was a little concerned at first, but got used to him being there. She even let him pat her. She is really starting to walk so much better on leash. I am so proud. 

Day 12 - The Corner of the Grounds
6/8 Day 12 "The Battle of Wills": Nilly is not happy about leash walking at the moment. I have to fight her the whole way. She will pull, then run behind me, then pull some more, then swap from side to side and pull the rest of the way. I have to keep correcting, which makes her more unhappy. Then we get to the goal (today was the corner of the building) and she likes to sniff the world . We have had a few more experiences with people patting her. We sat on the corner of the wall and watched people walk past. We had a few people come up to us, one even patted Nilly and she let them. She was hesitant, but she still let them.

Day 15 - Relaxing
Day 15 - Good Leash Walking
6/14 Day 15 "The Relaxing Walk": Today was HUGE. Nilly not only walked willingly on her leash, but she also left the shelter grounds for the first time since November. We sat outside the front gate on the grass under the trees. That location is a prime spot to meet new people and new dogs. We talked to other dogs and some of the dog walkers that came past and she did great. YAY! It is actually getting easier to get her on a leash now, she will go to the kennel gate and sit tightly in the corner while you drop the leash over her head. Taking the leash off is just as easy. She hasn't snarled or bitten in weeks. My girl is growing up.

Day 16 - The First Bush
6/15 Day 16 "The First Bush: Nilly totally rocked it today. She went all the way down the street. She found an awesome bush to play in - a first for her. She found some amazing smells and generally it felt like she was free and happy. On our way back in we hung out in Abbey's office (inside a building - another first) and walked really well on leash. She did have a couple of little panick attacks but I have found the way to quickly calm her down. She is doing great for a dog that has never been a dog before.
Day 16 - Nilly Saying Hi
Day 16 - She is Happy Getting Closer to you.

6/21 Day 17 "The New Bush": Nilly found a new bush today. It was about three blocks down away from the shelter. Coming out of the kennel was rougher today, but once she got past the corner she walked calmly beside me down the middle of the driveway. Completely away from the fence (a first for her). She calmly walked beside me across the road and even when a massive truck went past. I love this girl so much - I'm so happy she trusts me. I am even allowed to touch her right side. She is still hesitant about the top of the head. She even gave me a kiss on the nose today.

6/23 Day 18 "The New Kid on the Block": This was an amazing day. I took the day off but another person who has been shadowing me while I work with Nilly (Cam) just called me to say that she went for a 3/4 mile walk with him. He got her out with limited panic attacks and went for a long walk. I am so proud of both Nilly and Cam. It isn't easy working with her. She will test every limit and boundary you have. But she is worth it and I'm so happy she is building her trust base and he is feeling confident. What an awesome day.

Day 19
6/24 Day 19 "The Long Run": Nilly kicked my butt today - but in a great way. As this is my first official "unemployed" day - I decided to go to the shelter (dah). Nilly put the leash on first try, walked straight out the door past Kelley cleaning and waiting for me to open the gate to the dog area. She walked down the stairs with limited resistant and went straight around the corner. She didn't even stop on the wall for her normal "poop" stop. We walked straight around the corner and straight into the middle of the drive way. This isn't normal for her - she usually hugs the fence line until the gate to the shelter. But not today - Nilly felt brave. We walked straight down the middle of the driveway and straight out the middle of the gate. Then, this is where it gets unique, we walked. And walked. And walked. We ended up at Costco Kapolei. The cars and trucks going by didn't bother her. The people made her a little wary and whenever someone got too close, she glued herself to my leg. We walked around Kapolei for about 90-minutes before I got tired. But a few great notes along the way, she met a Mongoose (although I think she wanted to be a more than just friends with it), she is a great runner on a leash (we ran for about 30min), she is smart with poles AND she is now coming to her name. To me - this was an incredible day.
Day 19 - Her Search 
Day 19 - A New Wall

Day 20 - The Car & The "Bling"
Day 20 - Meeting Bernie
6/27 Day 20 "Introducing The Car": We had another MAMMOTH day today. The day started off like it normally does, a small fight to get the leash on but today was a little different. As you will see from today's pictures, Nilly got her "bling" on. She seems ok with the collar although we will see how it goes tonight. We walked out the kennel and there is a new resident on her side, Bernie. Apparently, she doesn't mind Bernie as they were kissing through the fence. So we went for our normal walk, sat by the trees with Marley and Nilly let Marley scratch her. We also did some of our desensitizing exercises - feet touching. Then on the way back, I thought I would add something new into the routine. Bring on - the car. After putting up a fairly big fight to get in, she was in - the doors were closed and off we went. She did GREAT. She just watched out the window. When I opened the doors, she didn't bolt - she calmly got out of the car and we walked back to her kennel. Then when I took the leash off - she actually came closer to me and sat down. I started scratching her RIGHT side and she just lay down next to me. Score one to us. We rocked it today.

Day 21
6/29 Day 21 "A New Day": I received a text message this morning, it contained this picture. I couldn't be happier. This is D. Her and her family are some of the most loyal people I have ever met. They are at the shelter rain or shine everyday to walk the dogs. So this picture made my weekend. This is Nilly with D, outside the shelter gates. Just relaxing. It is basically showing me that my job is almost done. She is openly trusting more than just me now. I couldn't be happier. Well done Nilly and D for sticking with her and trusting her.

Day 22 - A New Walk
7/3 Day 22 "A New Walking Partner": I stopped by the shelter today to say hi to my favorite shelter gal. I had a friend join me - Montana. Nilly was great letting her leash her up and walked straight out the kennel door and straight out the kennel enclosure. I do think she is feeling nervous with all the change going on. She now has three walkers - which is awesome. However, so much has happened that she is slightly nervous. She wasn't the most comfortable and had a few "Nilly Attacks" but she still walked well in the end. Was even climbing over logs and sniffing everything in site. We decided to try another car trip. She definitely wasn't comfortable doing the walk to the car. But once she was inside she was great. We have arranged a meeting with a good friend of mine (Leonard) so that he can have a look at her and give me some pointers and suggestions. I can't wait.

Day 23 - A New Friend
7/4 Day 23 "A New Friend": We didn't plan on stopping by today, but I did. Nilly had gone for her usual walk with D that morning. But I wanted to take her for a quick walk just to spend time with her. My husband came with me, so he asked if he could try leashing her up and walking out. She resisted a little with her head movements when he tried to put the leash on but he got her and they were out the door walking before I could catch up. I was so proud watching her. We went and sat by outside the gate. I have been doing some desensitizing exercises with her in the hope that she will eventually let me cut her extremely long nails. Me and Pat sat out there for about 15minutes - there was a small bug attack that spooked her a little, Sara joined us for a few too and she let Sara touch her
Day 23 - Bug Attack
right side and down her back. A big thing for Nilly. She doesn't like people touching her right side. Then on the walk back to the shelter we tried another car entry - she fought me the entire way to the car. At the car door I asked her to get in, pulled her leash up and in she got. That was the third time in the car. We didn't go for a drive, I got her to turn around and I scratched her down and then we got out. The other thing I tried is once we were through the enclosure door I took her off leash. She walked calmly beside me, waited by my side while I opened her kennel door and she went in. The nice thing is that she turned around after walking in and I reached to pat her- she usually runs away - and she licked my hand. I placed a little trust in Nilly too, I took her off leash inside the first gate and asked her to walk with me to her kennel - she did it perfectly.

7/8 Day 24 “Assessment Day”: I asked a good friend of mine, a trainer with Sit Means Sit, to come out and have a look at Nilly to give me some ideas, pointers, suggestions and his professional opinion.

Professional assessment (Leonard Letoto):

“Nilly's a dog that needs a patient and understanding human to bond with. Her behavioral traits can be viewed as negative to some but from a trainer's perspective, she is displaying behaviors that she had to learn and use to survive.

Her guarded nature lended itself well to her personal security when she was on her own but now she's learning to trust and depend on someone else for that.

With years of habits that have worked for her under her belt, it will take a good amount time, effort and love to get past the walls that she has put up for herself. Not impossible by any means but definitely not for the first time dog owner or an individual who cannot make a substantial commitment to do what is necessary to connect with this dog.”

Opinion of an observer (Montana):

Monday before we headed off to our full day of fun, I stopped by the shelter to hand off my foster to his new home. While I waited for the new mommy to arrive, I got to watch Sass work with Nilly.

Today was a bit special though, Leonard Letoto from Sit Means Sit was at the shelter to help evaluate and assist Sass in furthering Nilly’s progress. Nilly, as usual, was unsure of the new person, but came up to me, licked my hand, and then went back to ignoring me as usual. Nilly was perched atop the corner near the cattery and I sat back on the stairs, uncertain of how this would work. After talking to Sass for a while, Leonard asked to see her in action. Leonard set up a chair and asked Sass to have Nilly “place” atop it. Nilly, as usual, was hesitant to change, and resisted with all her might and was loud as usual (her favorite mechanism for protection – barking, crying, screaming, more or less a temper tantrum).

After multiple attempts and nothing but resistance from Nilly due to feeling trapped when on the three sided chair, they changed the place to an upside down tough box. After a bit of resistance, Nilly perched atop the box like a pro. She walked over it, jumped over it, and stopped directly on it, at Sass’s direction. Leonard made noises to see her reaction, and despite the hand clapping, foot stomping, and door slamming, Nilly remained relatively calm. Leonard then brought out Peaches, one of his personal dogs, and Nilly showed little interest in her, despite her barking and close range. Leonard loaded up Peaches and then went back to talking to Sass about Nilly.

I had to go help the new mommy with our puppy and didn’t get to hear much of the analysis, but while I was in the offices, I was thinking about what I’d just seen. Nilly came in long ago, she did not want to be touched, she would not eat, and would not let anyone near her. Now, at the direction of a human, Nilly did as she was asked, because she wanted to please a human, something I never thought I would see in her. The transition from feral into pet has been amazing. While she’s not quite there yet, with some time and a lot of work and patience on her handler’s part, Nilly will be an amazing pet. She’s a smart girl who just needs someone to show her how to love and what the pet life is all about.
Day 25 - The New Route
Day 25 - New rules. 
7/9 Day 25 "A New Route": Nilly and I did our usual walk today. She was calm but a little more wary than normal. The only difference for today was that I wanted to walk a different route. Instead of going out the gate like we normally do, I decided to change it up. We walked our regular route out – I no longer have to fight her to leave either enclosures. We walked to the corner and Nilly wanted to go up the stairs and sit on the side. However, it was occupied (Mango) so we decided to continue. However, we walked the other way around the building and walked behind the second building. We explored and worked on changing direction while walking on leash. She is becoming a pro at that. We also worked on coming when called, being touching on the feet, being touched on the back down to the tail. The feet desensitizing has been a little more urgent as I need to cut her nails. They are starting to bend her toes. She has started to learn “sit” too. I cannot push sit as some days she will not react well to me correcting her. We also learnt the new rules, which state, even if the door is open - you do not leave or run.

Day 26 - "Place"
Day 26 - The Water Bowl
7/10 Day 26 "The New Home": The shelter has had to do some re-organizing and unfortunately Nilly's home where she has been since November was no longer possible. So we find a new kennel for her, not on the main floor so that she could relax and feel comfortable. However, she had neighbors. This is completely new to her. Myself and some of the shelter staff/volunteers went about securing this new kennel. It needed a roof and some slight repairs so that she couldn't make holes. Once we were ready, I went and grabbed Nilly. She was definitely hesitant at first. But her neighbor (Monday) was nice to her and we gave her a new travel kennel so she had somewhere to be alone. After the relocation was done, we went about our usual training. We started with the basics - walking on the leash and "place". She is a pro. So we started doing laps around the car. No problems. So I opened the doors and asked her to get in on every second lap. No problems. She would even stay in the car if I asked her and went to the full extent of the leash away (12-foot). So two of my goals for her we can check off. The car and “place” are both working really well. i usually keep Nilly out while I talk to people or walk around the shelter. On this day there was a group of three or four people standing around with Nilly beside me. She got brave, she would walk up to them and give them a lick. She gave Candy licks on the knee and hands. She also realized that the container I keep in my car (a non-spill-able doggy water bowl which always has water in it) had water in it and she could drink from it. After about three hours of being out of her kennel with me and working on training, she gave up and did something I have never seen her do. She flopped down on the floor at my feel. I thought this was a bit odd from her so I reached down to give her a bit of a pat and she rolled over on her back. I kept scratching but moved to her chest. She kept rolling more so it ended up me and her having a good ole fashioned belly rub. I was amazed.

Day 26 - Happy Car Girl
Day 26 - Meeting the Neighbors

This is where things changed a little. I had to leave Oahu for a few weeks. But with the progress she had made with other people walking her and her confidence, I didn't worry about her in the slightest. If anything, I missed her. So July 10th was my last day with her for many weeks. I had been kept in the loop with the staff and volunteers sending me updates, but I was eager to get back and see her. So, I packed my gear and headed down. 

8/3 Day 27 "The Reunion": I was so happy to see her and I walked up to her kennel with my usual happy cheery calling of "Nilly Nilly". She run straight up to the gate with her happy smile and tail wagging. I walked into her kennel and she was a little hesitant but when I crouched down she came right over and sat down beside me and gave me an elbow lick. If that isn't a Nilly hello, then I don't know what is. Her training was a little rusty, but she picked it up super fast. We had the tough box out again and she was jumping up and sitting like a pro. The car exercise was a little less smooth, but by the end she was back to the standard of the last time I saw her. We even tried her in another car, just to make sure she wasn't associating it with only my car. She jumped into the back seat and peaked over the SUV's seats to where D was packing up. Smart girl. But she went in and out five times with no panic or concerns. Yay, go Nilly. D also mentioned to me that they had attempted to bathe her. Something which she has never been comfortable with. Water is one of the things I have been working on desensitizing her to - like having someone touch her feet.

8/5 Day 28 "Agility Course" : So today I went to the shelter with a plan. I wanted to challenge Nilly. She has mastered "Place" and "Car". She is still working on sit, but I'm not rushing that one as she can be sensitive to being touched on her rear. I wanted something that would challenge and tire her out. So I came up with an obstacle course. She is a super fit dog and I feel like she needs to burn some energy. So I integrated the stuff we have worked on but making the starting position in the car with the water bowl by the door. She then had to leave the car and head to the tough box. From there we would walk a certain path that made her jump up on walls, walk on thin edges and jump on and off things in quick succession. This would also allow me to start working on two more key words. "Up/On" and "Off". The first time she was confused and resisted a little. Just before the mid-way point there is a little set of stairs, something she doesn't like doing, which she had to go up to the top alone and back down. At the turn around point there is a section where I would almost run her like you would when breaking a horse. I had it so that to complete the circle she had to jump up on a four foot high wall. I made her do three to four circles. On the way back, we would do the same things but backwards - she is very set on her routine, so this is a little tricky for her. But after we did the course six times she was a pro. And she was tired. Score 1 to Sass. She went into her kennel, had a big drink and flopped on her bed. I felt like it was a great day and was super proud of her.

My one and only Nilly snuggle
8/22 "Spay Day": I came in for a sterilization day at the shelter. Nilly was scheduled to go under in one of the first few slots. So I rocked up early and put her through her paces. We did walks, tricks, sits, agility and some touch activities. When I thought she was tired enough, we put her up on her "place" and got her to sit. I gave her a good scratch to try and distract her - it didn't work. She felt the needle from behind and was unhappy about it. The great thing was we got enough into her system. I was left outside to sit with Nilly while she went down. After a few minutes she got super sleepy and I got my first Nilly snuggle ever. Everything went great, with the plus of I finally got to cut her nails. Yay! We also got the amazing news that although she has been feral for her whole life she was in fact Heart Worm negative. Something none of us expected - but were thrilled about. Dr. Benson did a great job and she was done super quick and had no problems in recovery or during her surgery. As you will see from her pictures she woke up a little groggy, but we expected that. Something else I didn't expect was that she was still very friendly towards me after a few hours. She didn't shy away or have any negative effects from the day. Something we are very excited about.
Nilly being prepped for surgery!

She made friends with Tiger while she woke up
Sometimes you just have a rough day. 

We decided we wanted to let her wake up in her kennel. 

For the weeks following her surgery, she continued to get better and better with people. I was able to watch her with and her reaction with D one afternoon and it was amazing to watch how excited she was to see her. She jumped up on D and generally wanted to behave like a dog who loves someone. It was one of the best moments of my career at the Oahu SPCA.

8/29 "The Goodbye": This is one of my saddest days. I had to say goodbye to Miss Nilly. My pack and I had a journey to the Netherlands for my husbands work. So I had to make the walk into her kennel which I knew would be my last. I called out in my usual way - Nil Nil Nilly - and she gave me her usual three bark and came running to the front of the kennel. I went into her kennel and knelt down and she came up beside me. I got something I was hoping for - a cheek kiss. I had only had one in my entire life with Nilly. I told her that I had to leave and that she had to take care of everyone here and not let Bebe (her neighbor) teach her anymore bad habits. As I stood she tried to leave with me but I said no and she back back. I will miss this amazing girl. She has taught me more than any animal ever has. My only hope is that someone will give this girl a chance and that they will give her as much as she has given me.

And that is the end of my chapter with Miss Nilly. She will always be my "Feral Princess"!

No comments:

Post a Comment