The first 24 hours.

The first time I tried to walk both dogs was pure comedy. I’m sure my neighbors were all calling one another and running to the window to see the hilarity of it. Max walked slowly, minutes could go by and he’d only gone four or five feet. The beauty of those walks were that birds would land right next to him, squirrels would run up to him. He was my gentle giant. Melvin on the other hand was terrible on leash and walked (read pulled) as if he’d never been outdoors before. Squirrels not only ran from him, they made an alarming clicking noise to warn their family that T-Rex was close by. When I tried to walk them together, my arms were stretched to capacity in opposite directions. Lesson learned, by day two I was going on eight dog walks a day; one dog four times each. As for Melvin’s pulling, the first thing I did was get him a Gentle Leader. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have made it (physically or mentally)!

Melvin’s Delaware foster family woke early, they’d warned me that Melvin was used to rising at 5am. I was concerned. I love sleep. I’m not the type to sleep until noon and I rarely nap but I need my eight hours. Although Melvin started off in the crate (in order to give Max some space when needed) I wanted him to sleep upstairs with the rest of us. By the end of the night Melvin seemed mellow enough that he wasn’t going to try to engage Max in play and it would give Max opportunity to teach Melvin 1. the beauty of having his own dog bed and 2. which bed belonged to him.

The first night was pure torture. Melvin couldn’t relax. He kept jumping up on the bed which would be followed by Max barking at him because if Max couldn’t jump up on the bed (arthritis) then no dog could. When he wasn’t jumping up on the bed he was pacing or scratching (all I knew at this point was he had allergies and took pills but it was at night I started realizing how miserable he was). When he scratched his tags would jingle like sleigh bells. He paced, jumped on the bed and itched. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I was torn with what to do but tried to let him work it out. If I comforted him every time, there was a very good chance he was going to require it from then on. I didn’t want that. At 3am I took him to his crate and he cried for an hour. I brought him back up. He paced. By 6am he finally laid down. I couldn’t believe it. He sighed, I sighed,we’d succeeded! At exactly 6:04 a tree limb broke and went crashing into my neighbor’s house, a noise so loud the walls shook. Melvin leapt four feet in the air and I knew the night was over.

For two weeks after that sleepless night I’d carry his massive crate up the steps every night (and back down in the morning)so he could feel safe but still be with us. It took about a month for him to sleep through the night. It took about three months for him to stop waking at 5am. Fast forward to today, Melvin enjoys the snooze bar, sleeps in as late as I do and recently slept through a false fire alarm.

The beginning is tough but just like everything else you get through it. Melvin was nervous and it was my job to be patient and not add to his anxiety. He wasn’t going to relax just because I told him to, I was a stranger and he didn’t speak human. Resolve and understanding got us through. And wine. And Tylenol PM.

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