The Big Move

In the beginning of June, our daughter was expected to arrive home in under two weeks for a long-awaited and much anticipated visit. I wanted to give her the bathroom adjoining her bedroom back, which of course meant it was time for Tinker to be moved. I had thought I would move him down to the main floor, but had not really been able to find a good place for him without substantial re-positioning of furniture and felt it would be better for everyone and more relaxing for me to instead move the little guy into the TV room for the time being. I wanted to focus on our daughter’s visit. On the plus side, this would also mean that although Tinker’s world would become a bit bigger, it would be much less of a challenge for him than moving him to the main floor, and then have to deal with our daughter’s visit.

My plan had been to simply move Tinker’s crate from the bathroom to its new location, some twenty feet or so, while Tinker was otherwise occupied. This proved to be more challenging that I had expected because for whatever reason, Tinker decided he would stay either very close to his crate, or would dart inside whenever I even walked past the bathroom. He had a seemingly uncanny ability to sense when I was intending to walk in and pick up the crate.

All day, regardless of how nonchalant or aloof I was, when I made any move toward the landing or the bathroom, Tinker was zip past me and run into the crate. I tried everything; singing, carrying a book and trying to look interested (bear in mind, the dog is almost blind; I’m unsure what I was thinking by doing this, other than occupying my thoughts so I wasn’t focused on the crate); walking to the landing multiple times at unpredictable times and then leaving again; walking downstairs, then upstairs, down and up…nothing seemed to work to convince him he didn’t need to man the crate.

I should point out as well that during this time, Tinker was very comfortable being out of his crate with me, just hanging out in his little bed or joining me wherever I was on the second floor and laying on his belly, relaxing for a while then going back to his bed. I really didn’t expect this strange behavior of popping back into his crate the way he did.

This certainly points up something very important about our dogs, something that most people don’t understand or even know: Dogs, with their incredible sensing abilities of smell and hearing as well as their powers of observation, are able to “tune in” to our pulse rates, our hormones, sweat glands, our breathing. They notice what we would consider to be imperceptible changes in our behaviors, our body language, our attention, our habits. Any changes in these things alert our dogs to us. Changes in their environments represent possible problems in the dog’s minds. Anything, no matter how minute, is cause for notice, because for the dog it’s all about survival. If they were to be living wild minute changes such as bent grass where the grass was standing tall before, a torn leaf, a twig on the ground where it hadn’t been previously, a strand of hair caught on a burr, could mean an intruder is nearby, a possible threat. Dogs still live their lives by their instincts, regardless of the environment they’re in.

In short, it’s pretty tough to fool a dog!

I finally resigned myself to being out-maneuvered by Tinker and since I was fast running out of time in that day, thought my best alternative would be to just move the crate with him in it, which I proceeded to do.

I closed the door of the crate with Tinker in it and began to move the crate. As mentioned, it was a short twenty feet or so to the new location in the next room, so I thought it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. At first, Tinker simply lay on his belly in the crate, remaining still. I moved the crate slowly and found it was quite heavy, being a sizable crate and adding Tinker’s weight. I moved it in small increments, possibly a foot or two at a time. About halfway there, Tinker became visibly anxious and began moving around in the crate. This made the crate more difficult for me to pick up and move, with the contents shifting about but I kept at it, little bit at a time, and the crate dragged a little in the process. I could tell the sound of the dragging was adding to Tinker’s anxiety, so I finally just placed the crate down and opened the door. Tinker was out of the crate like a shot, moving around the room as though looking for someplace safe to hide. He finally found a cozy spot behind a large ottoman. When I looked over, all I could see were his little eyes peeping over the ottoman at me, wide and obviously shaken.

“Alright then”, I thought to myself, “This actually makes things a bit easier. I’ll settle the crate in and he will find it again, and all will be well!”

Sadly, this wasn’t the case.

Tinker did not return to his crate. In fact, Tinker avoided the crate completely. It broke my heart for him. I felt that I had taken his one real place of sanctuary from him, his one place of peace and true security. What have I done?!

After about an hour, I sat down next to the crate and requested Tinker to come, which he did, and gained his food reward by entering the crate to get it while I held it through the side. I did this a few times, praising him quietly when he retrieved his reward. But it was crystal clear he would not be spending any time in the crate, because each time he took his reward, he left the crate in a hurry. After a few light interactions, I ended the session and left him be.

That evening and in the days after moving the crate, I watched as Tinker would sometimes walk into the bathroom as though looking for his trusted crate, only to find it gone. I had seen him walk to the crate in the new place, sniff it very cautiously a couple of times, then walk away from it. Having the visual limitations he does, it’s not surprising he is trying very hard to reconcile this big change in his environment, and I couldn’t help but feel I had robbed him of something very, very dear to him. I took solace in knowing that he still had the choice of using his crate if he wished, as well as knowing he had his comfy little bed he seems to enjoy. Still, it was hard to watch him, to see him almost want to enter the crate, only to have his fear win out, remembering how his beloved crate had moved and frightened him. I felt I had ruined some of his very hard-earned security.

The only thing that could be done now is to simply ignore Tinker’s reaction of distress, being very careful not to get caught up in it which could result in my behavior putting pressure on the little guy. I would just have to continue on with life as it is, making certain that AB is in place.

This is the way I could help him best.

 

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