Rehabilitating Circe

by Andrea Elizabeth

Circe is a psychologically complex possibly Whippet/German Shepherd mixed brindle colored, elegant dog. She was put on the urgent list at the shelter for extreme shyness. My son and I were looking for a companion for his dog who is left alone a lot while he is at work. Circe, then “Juniper”, is a medium to large dog and had to be carried to the greeting pen. She was very gentle, but cowered next to the fence. I could not coax her away from it, so I just sat with her and hugged her, which she did not resist. The only budge she gave was to lean against me a little while also leaning on the fence. In her favor was very steady, intelligent eye-contact.

Finally after I gave up, she was willing to walk back towards her pen following loosely on the leash, but when I detoured before getting there, she determinedly went behind an air conditioner and had to be carried back to her pen by a shelter worker. A bit skeptical, I went ahead and thought we could give her a shot. Another reason was that the spot on the fence she chose in the greeting pen was right in front of a domineering German Shepherd’s kennel, separated by a sidewalk. I could tell she liked his alpha male protectiveness. My son’s other dog, Loki, is a male alpha husky/Pyrenees mix.

After her neutering surgery I took her home for a couple of days till my son was off work and could meet her and possibly take her home. Looking back I think some of her reticence at my house was due to being in pain. She cheerfully greeted my two female smaller dogs when I put her down, and she followed them into the living room under her own steam. I put a dog bed there, and that’s where she camped the rest of the evening and night. The next day she followed them onto the porch, loosely on the leash, and to the grass to pee. I thought she’d like to be tethered there, and mistakenly left her and went inside. About 20 minutes later I found her empty harness next to our deck. I was afraid she’d run off, but a flashlight revealed she was just beyond arm’s length in the 9″ high clearance under the deck. I blocked off all the other exits with firewood and tried to entice her with food to come out. She didn’t budge for 6 hours. Finally, after placing several heavy 5 foot high pen sections around the one opening, since she wouldn’t come to the entrance to be caught, I called one of my dogs, Cassie, into the pen where Circe could see, hoping she would want to rejoin the pack. I praised and pet Cassie for following me, and that’s when Circe, with a cry of pain, squeezed out of the narrow opening and came to me to be pet and praised. Wow. Such a relief. This was after I had desperately ordered a dog-catcher pole and noose that would take a week to come in. It was that or take apart the deck. I had also tried flooding her out with a water hose, but she went to a high spot and let herself get wet.

Anyway, I didn’t leave her unattended in our unfenced back yard after that, but kept with her on a leash which she cooperated with if my dogs lead the way. My dogs have radio collars and 1.5 acres bordered by an electrified underground wire makes the collar first beep then shocks them if they cross it. The collars are expensive and it takes a couple of weeks to gently train dogs on it. The next day Loki and my son came over and the two big dogs were very happy nudging each other and playing a little bit. Circe was the initiator of most of it. My son took her home and she was very happy with him and Loki, but not so much with being in a pen while he is at work, evidenced by shredding the dog bed she had loved at my house and sometimes peeing on his bed.

After about a month, this week I am dog-sitting to give them all a break and let her get out more. Monday morning I held her on the long 25′ tether, and she loved bounding after my dogs. Her whippet body can really cover a lot of ground. Later that day, since she is so shy about venturing out by herself, I took the leash off. At first she stayed on the porch, but then when my dogs got excited and ran after something, she forgot herself and let herself go with them. Once she even went past them over their border. Afraid she’d keep going I nervously called her back, and she came! I put her short leash back on her hoping that dragging behind her, it would caution her a little, and allow her to be caught if need be. Since then, leash-less, she mostly stays on the porch or with my dogs, outrunning them easily till they stop, then mostly she stops. I have had to call her back a few times. This is why I wont leave her out by herself. She loves our quiet, spacious yard. She needs to visit often to get her energy out and to stretch her long legs. Loki could use it too, but he’s much more independent and does heedlessly run off. Maybe he could be put on a long leash with a running human to keep up with the other dogs when he visits.