Confidence

As Merlin has gained confidence over the past three months, Seelie has recently lost some of his.

I adopted Merlin on December 20, 2014. When we first came home, he hid in a crate in the kitchen for the first two days, gradually venturing out to explore. He wanted attention, but shied away from having an arm around him, and unless he was sleeping, would only stay on the couch with me for very short periods. He wouldn’t retrieve the ball or the frisbee, only coming so close before backing away. I had to go get the toy to throw it again. The first time we went to his beginner obedience/agility/relationships class, he wouldn’t come to me when called – he ran around the ring, clearly worried and not knowing what to do. ‘Stay’ seemed impossible to teach.

Now Merlin has the run of the house. He’s made a little den for himself in the study, under the computer desk. He’ll hang out with me on the couch, even tolerating hugs for a short time. He’s discovered that massages are a Very Good Thing, which makes me happy because his muscles are so tight most of the time. He now brings me the frisbee or ball so I can throw it, dropping it on the floor nearby, although sometimes he needs a few tries to get it close enough for me to pick it up. Class meets every two weeks; in our third session, Merlin came to me every time I called him, over a sequence of two low jumps, wagging his tail and grinning at me. We’re up to a five-second stay.

It’s been a fantastic journey over the past three months, watching him relax bit by bit. We still have a long way to go, but the look in his eyes is softer now and he’s lost enough anxiety to really start learning with me.

Merlin’s growing confidence became obvious over the past couple of weeks. In the past few days, I’ve also noticed some changes in Seelie’s behavior, and I think they’re related. Seelie has gotten more vocal, barking at me when Merlin asks for attention. He’s ramped his activity level up several notches, running faster through agility courses and always in motion at home when he used to be more relaxed. His interactions with Gryphon are a little more intense; they play, but there’s an edge there now that wasn’t there before.

When I first adopted Seelie, he was fifteen months old. As far as I know, I’m his fourth home. He used to fall asleep holding my arm or hand in his mouth, or sometimes part of the couch or a dog bed. He hasn’t done that in a long time, until last night, when I found him half asleep with part of a dog bed bunched up in his mouth.

I’m not worried about Seel, at least not yet. He gets plenty of attention, but I’m going to make sure we get some real alone time every day. I think some of this is due to his relationship with Merlin; they don’t usually play, and while they’ll follow each other out in the yard, they don’t directly interact much. If they’re going after the same toy, either one backs away. They haven’t resolved their relative status in the pack yet; I’m not sure how to help them do that, but I think – hope – Seelie’s lost confidence will soon return.

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6 thoughts on “Confidence

  1. It does take a while for an older pet to get used to the new interloper in the group. We had similar issues with our cats. In time they did reach an understanding once they figured that there was enough love and attention to go around and no one got short changed. Hope things work out.

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    • They’ll work out, it’s just going to be interesting to see how we’ll get there! Seelie is actually three years younger than Merlin, but was here first – so perhaps that complicates the situation.

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  2. One thing I enjoy about having multiple pets is watching their interactions and dynamics within their herd. I would imagine these interactions are especially interesting to observe in animals that actually are pack animals. We only have the one dog, but we have six cats, and while cats aren’t exactly pack animals, mine do spend far more of their time together than they do alone and there is a clear order and set of rules to each relationship.

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    • I find those relationships endlessly fascinating. Cats are a bit of a mystery to me; I like them, but I’m severely allergic. Horses are a riot… when I had my horse, I could never figure out those relationships. One would pick on the other, appear to be completely disgusted by his presence, but if the second horse was taken out of the paddock, the first horse would lose his mind with worry. No primate logic at all!

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