What a difference a month makes.
When Ella arrived here from Louisiana at the end of February, she was so fearful she tried to avoid us at all costs. She wouldn't come into the house, wouldn't let us get close to her, and wouldn't even come up to eat her meals -- we'd have to put the bowl down and then back away. Once we had retreated a certain distance, only then would she go up to the bowl and start eating. Needless to say, we had a lot of work to do with this young lady.
The biggest help, of course, was just having the other dogs around. She'd watch them greet us, jump up and down at our feet so we'd pick them up, and see how they would come over to us to be petted and loved. We saw her watching them do all this, and we could tell that it was beginning to dawn on her that dogs and people naturally enjoyed each other's company!
The breakthrough came one morning when I was trying to get Ella to come in the front door. She stood about 8 feet away, just off the ramp, clearly wanting to come in but not trusting me enough to walk right past me and through the door. As I was pondering what to do next, here came blind Madison up the ramp, tail wagging, and eager to get some loving. I bent down, made all over her, and then she walked through the open door and into the house.
Ella stood there watching this.
In an instant, she hopped onto the ramp and skittered past me into the house.
From that point on, we noticed she was paying a lot of attention to what Madison was doing. If Madison did it, she would be comfortable doing it. So over the next few days, if Ella was balking about coming in the door, we'd go get Madison, put her outside, and then call her back indoors. Ella would follow along right behind her.
We began feeding them next to each other. Pretty soon Ella stopped running from us when we approached with her food bowl. She'd still be nervous, with her tail tucked, but she wouldn't go hide. She'd park herself near Madison and eat her meal.
One day in the living room, I was petting Madison and scratching her ears and making all over her. The next thing I knew, Ella had gotten up off the dog bed nearby and came over to stand next to Madison ... to get her share of loving! There I was, making over both of them, side by side.
That was the second breakthrough.
"Madison," I said, "you're a wonderful teacher, old girl!"
Ella has come so far that she now gets jealous if we're petting another dog. She will come over and shoehorn her way in to make sure she gets a little of it, too.
She's not 100% yet ... there are still flashes of her old fears and insecurities ... but every day she's more and more like a normal dog. The "disability in her head" that I wrote about in that first blog post is almost gone.
And you can see from the photo above just how relaxed she now is. As far as she's concerned, the Dachshunds and Spinner can have the two armchairs -- but the couch is hers!
I wouldn't know this if TypePad, our blogging service, didn't keep track of such things, but this is my 1,250th blog post. So this is as good a time as any to announce that I'm going to start posting three days a week rather than five -- Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Doing these daily blog posts -- photos with narrative -- takes more time than one might realize, and time is the one thing we're chronically short of around here. So for the immediate future, I'm going to trim back the blogging schedule and see how it goes.
Speaking of data, how many comments have been posted on the blog? Would you believe 13,753? Wow.
Please keep voting for the ranch in the Shelter Challenge -- and you can vote every day! We're currently in fourth place and still on track to win $3,000 for the animals, but every vote counts! We just slipped from third place to fourth, so please help round up as many votes as you can so we can stay in the running for the $3,000. Ask your family and friends to vote for the ranch, too!
Enter "Rolling Dog Ranch" and our state postal code, MT, for Montana, and it will bring up our listing.
Last year we won $3,000 in the first round and then won the $20,000 Grand Prize in the second round, so your votes really do add up and make for a wonderful gift for the animals here.