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The Otis Diaries

I took Otis out for a private walk on the beach at the end of the evening and again this morning, and both times I was struck by how, as I stood in a spot, he would investigate everything within about a 50 foot circle of me. But then when I moved, he was immediately at my side as I walked. When I stopped again, he would again sniff around this imaginary circle. I did this over and over for at least a half hour: when I moved he moved; when I stopped he browsed. Very smart.
And he's already picked up on our eating etiquette, where only calm dogs get the food.

By sundown he was laying on his back on the couch (a good sign) sleeping away.
This morning got interesting as Otis was trying clumsily to mount Maya. Maya, of course, wanted nothing to do with this. But the way she handled it surprised me. Over a half-hour period, when this behavior was attempted, Maya would give just the briefest of corrections--just a look really--and Otis began to learn the lesson. It was interesting because Maya has rarely been in the role in our house as a teacher, so this was a great thing to see.
By the end of this session it was evident that Maya and Otis were friends.
The dog food in the water trick work great and we saw Otis polish off a third-liter of water this morning in one sitting.
So far so good

4/20: They're all doing great. We've been doing lots of beach walks. Maya and Otis are now exchanging kisses. Very cute.
On Sunday, we took him for a ride in our truck with Lucy and Maya. (We have a king cab with a special doggie back seat.) They all had a great time.
Had a friend over on Sunday for a visit and Otis was totally calm. Happy to have one more human to pet him.
Meal times are going well. We have a policy that Bogart gets the first bowl of food (age has it's privileges) then whoever is sitting the quietest gets their food. Of course, as soon as everyone has their food, the silence is broken by the roar of gluttony. Otis caught on to the routine almost instantly. Now, as soon as I start preparing the bowls of food he is sitting as quiet as he can possibly stand it! He's better than Maya and Lucy. So, the perfect little gentleman.

4/21 AM: Well, today is our first day away from the newly-sized clan. I went to work yesterday, and Dan was home with the dogs. Today we are both at work. Otis and Maya both went into their crates with no issues whatsoever this morning. First time Otis has been in his crate since Saturday.

4/21 PM: Today was a good day. He did just great in his crate, but was even happier to go for his beach walk (from which we just got back.) We think Otis is teaching Maya and Lucy to be tolerant of other dogs. Over the past year they have formed a sister bond that is sweet when no other dog is around, but gets heated when they think they need to protect each other. We're working on it and every day the issues diminish. Not bad for the third day?

4/26: We celebrated our 1-week anniversary with wine and peanut butter dog treats (you decide who had what.)
We continue to think that Otis is giving as much as he is getting. Maya is becoming a better dog and Dan and I are becoming better Pack Leaders. As you can see from the pics, Maya and Otis are bonding nicely.

I'm hoping it warms up today. I want to try a bike ride. I ride, Otis runs! We'll practice in the school yard.
That's all for now!

5/3: We continue to work on deciphering the Otis code.

One thing is clear: Otis is smart. If presented right, he understands almost immediately. For example, when he first arrived he thought all of the food was for him. Almost immediately he understood his bowl was just one of four being served, and that he had to sit calmly before he got it. That quickly extended to getting treats in general (all our dogs must be calm and sitting before they get the treat), and is now one of our primary ways of calming him down. Otis is now at his absolute calmest when he's eating.

But his nervousness/anxiety is a learning block that makes some learning hard for him. What makes him anxious? That's the big question. Though his anxiety is clearly diminishing, it's by no means gone (nor would we realistically expect it to in just a couple of weeks) Partially, it may be our issue as much as his. It's very possible we need to show more strong leadership in order for him to feel safe and relaxed, and for him to clearly understand expectations.  If we can deal with his anxiety, I'm convinced, any other issues he has will just fade away....

Another obvious thing: Otis wants to be a Dog. There's no doubt that his lack of socializing with other dogs earlier in life has left him lacking in doggy social skills. Like the high school boy going to the prom who wants to ask someone to dance, Otis just doesn't quite yet know how to do the asking, and doesn't seem to know how to dance if someone were to say yes. Otis craves interaction with Maya and Lucy, but he doesn't know how to initiate it and doesn't quite know how to play once he gets it. When he stumbles into real quality interaction with the other two, he's thrilled. Beyond Maya and Lucy, limited interaction with more dogs will almost certainly help this process along. And we're started to take him on long walks. That's the best bonding and teaching time there is!

Despite his quirks (and partially because of them) Otis is one very likable dog, and one who doesn't have a mean bone in his body. When his anxiety level does rise (when he gets frustrated that he doesn't know how to play, for example, or some strange sound....), we see absolutely no aggression associated with it.
At the risk of anthropomorphizing a bit more, you can sense he knows he doesn't quite fit in, and how much he wants to. How can you not love that?

Read more about Otis' adventures by clicking here

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