Written by Hugh O'Neill
(Amanda's European father-in-law. Proud dog-dad)
Esha’s tale. Six months on.
Our faithful readers will recall our initial blog relating to our adoption, in March this year, of Esha, our Maltese cross (known as a Boomer here in The Netherlands). Coming initially from an abandoned litter and following two failed adoptions and mistreatment in her first year she joined us at the age of one year and one month old. I can now report on her six months as a fully paid up member of the O’Neill pack.
Initially, she was very nervous and tentative regarding life in general, not surprising given her background but we have received a great deal of guidance and support, primarily from Amanda (our daughter-in-law), and as a result she has blossomed into a vibrant and confident member of society.
In our last contribution to this blog we mentioned that she struggled with being left alone. Aka separation anxiety. This, we believe, was due to one of the early adopters leaving her alone all day in a very confined space and then punishing her for the inevitable consequences.
Following Amanda’s advice we took the following actions:
1 – More exercise. Esha’s energy resources are astonishing! Fortunately as both Martine and I are now both retired we can allocate sufficient time to ensure she is adequately exercised. On a personal note, I have cancelled my subscription to the local gym as my daily outings with her are ensuring I keep fit. Example: Yesterday morning we walked into town and back (2.5km) and in the afternoon went running, jogging for 4.6km !! When I say running I mean RUNNING. Her pace is at times, too fast for me (I am a qualified Athletics coach with many half and full marathons in the bag). As I begin to slow, she shows no mercy and changes up a gear to warp speed 10 (Trekkies will get that.) An added benefit is that, together, we explore parts of our city that were previously unknown to me. We are also confident enough now to let her run free in parkland. Here in The Netherlands there are designated leash free zones in most districts.
Result: A dog that enjoys her sleep as much as her exercise and, when we go out without her, happily retires to her crate with little encouragement from us. The occasional sweet does help the process.
2- The Crate. One of Amanda’s sayings is ‘Do not forget that a dog is a dog’ and will feel at ease in its own lair/cave. We duly purchased a suitably sized crate, equipped it with comfortable cushions and placed it in the corner of our living/dining room. All as per ‘the book’. In addition, we leave an old piece of Martine’s clothing in the crate, this appeared to reduce her anxiety level even more. We cover the top and sides with a blanket and leave the door open during the day. At night she happily rests up to a full 8 hours until one of us rises to take her out.
3 – Incremental periods. As recommended, we started to leave her alone for increasing periods of time. To begin with there were plenty of protests but, suddenly, one day, it seems that the penny dropped that we always returned. From that moment our procedure is as follows. We verbally explain that we are going out and will return. We lead her to her crate, shut the door and once again reassure her (as previously stated, a sweet seems to equate to reassurance) – and it works!!! We are free again….
OK, that is the separation anxiety dealt with. For the rest, we never cease to be amazed about the positive impact she has had on our life.
She is an endless source of entertainment and fun. As a result of our daily exercise schedule we have become fully paid up members of the local dog walking community, greatly extending our social contacts to a level we could never have imagined.
She is acutely aware of our moods and feelings, reflecting back to us any variations in the norm. Fortunately, neither of us is often ill but on the one occasion I was feeling poorly she never left my side. She has also partly released us from time anxiety. Her lack of acknowledgment of time has spread to us and we are far more relaxed in our approach to our daily regimen.
Another routine she has led us into is a morning view of the world outside. Living in an apartment we are fortunate to have a spacious balcony overlooking first, a park and then one of Europe’s major rivers (The Meuse/Maas) which is always busy. She sits with us and studies the activities in the park and the boats on the river. A very relaxing start to the day which we almost certainly would not have initiated without her input. Further, she sits with us attentively during meditation sessions at other times of the day.
Her interaction with other humans is also fascinating. When walking with her it is very noticeable that she reacts very negatively to some and positively to others. It intrigues me as to whether this is triggered by my judgements of people or whether she divines negative and positive vibes herself. It should be said that we usually agree.
A side note here. Earlier this week she and I were out for a ‘stroll’ using her 2 metre leash. Advancing towards us was an Indian gentleman. As he reached us both he and Esha stopped and, for a full 5 seconds, stared at each other. He then asked me ‘what is the little one’s story?’ I briefly covered her bad start to life and our subsequent adoption. He looked at her again and the shook me by the hand and said ‘God Bless you, sir and God Bless the little one’. He then walked on leaving me astonished that such a small creature as Esha can have such an impact on people.
To conclude. After six months of living together with Esha we cannot imagine life without her, such is her impact. She is still only 18 months old, a teenager in dog years, and we look forward to many more years of fun and love.
Oh, and I forgot to mention. We purchased a bigger car so that she was more comfortable on longer journeys. Now that IS an example of her influence!!! Add ‘thoroughly spoilt’ to her profile.