“Just keep walking. Just keep walking. Don’t look. Don’t look. Okay, maybe just a peek. Well, he doesn’t seem scary… but I better keep my distance just to be safe,” is what I imagined going through Lucy’s head this afternoon as we embarked on our third walking session with her hopefully soon-to-be friend Juni, and his trainer mom, Jolanta (host of The Dog Trainer).
Going down a winding path in Prospect Park, Juni looked at Lucy and barked. Juni was ready to greet Lucy, but Lucy was apparently still afraid of commitment.
This is the story of two dogs trying to make friends, one of them more socially awkward than the other.
In the last few weeks, we’ve gotten these two together for afternoon strolls through the park in hopes that they’ll become pals. Juni’s behavior around dogs has changed greatly through Jolanta’s hard work and the use of a procedure called CAT. In fact, there’s a video all about his transformation. Now, Juni’s paying it forward by helping Lucy.
Juni looked up at Jolanta with a big questioning look, “What’s up with this girl? She’s weird.” Yes, Lucy was being strange. Walking slightly beside Juni, Lucy completely ignored him and kept herself busy by sniffing the patches of grass. Certainly Juni was more interesting than the smell of pee… but, Lucy was unsure of him and was exhibiting displacement behaviors.
He let out another woof.
Lucy snarked at him, “Shut up… or else!” was probably what she said to him. A default response on her part. She didn’t understand that the bark was Juni’s invitation to interact.
“What? I just want to be friends… What’s your deal anyway?” He was perplexed by her.
Not to continue putting words in her mouth, but I think the monologue in Lucy’s head went on in this fashion, “Don’t look at him. Just pretend he’s not there. He’s not there. He’s not there. He’s not there. Okay, quick peek just to make sure he’s at a safe distance. Okay, just keep walking… He seems okay, but ya never know…”
And then it happened. She mustered up enough courage to sniff his butt. It’s not the first time that’s ever happened. She sniffed his butt once at the end of our first ever walk together. She sniffed his butt twice on our second walk. It doesn’t matter how many times it’s happened before, with each and every sniff of Juni’s rear end, my heart skipped a beat. I stood still at the end of a slack leash… and grinned… like a proud mom, I grinned. I can only imagine that this is the joy a parent feels when they see their child overcome a challenge.
Lucy wavered between being uncomfortable and curious about Juni throughout the rest of our walk together this afternoon. Learning to make friends is hard work! At the end of the day, she sniffed his butt a total of four times and for the first time ever, sniffed Juni’s face without snarling at him. Again, with each and every sniff, with each and every positive interaction, I held my breath and crossed my fingers and toes… and grinned.
I know my description of events was a bit anthropomorphic, but there was truly a dialogue between these two dogs. Their bodies did the talking. I’ve also made it a habit, perhaps as my own displacement behavior to ease my own anxiety, to narrate out loud what’s been going through Lucy’s head… as best as I could. Apparently I also narrate for Juni.
I’m always going to have hope that I will see her offer a play bow to another dog. It may or may not ever happen. For now, I will keep working with her and keep everyone updated on her progress. Wish us luck!