Monday, July 28, 2014

Bella's list of fears grows shorter

Waaaaaayyyyyy back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about all the things Bella was afraid of.

It was a pretty big list.

In the same post, I listed how many of those fears she had already managed to overcome.

I couldn't have been more proud of her for facing all of that.

But it's time to update that list once again.

There are still a few things that Bella needs our help and encouragement to face but her list is so much smaller now I almost wonder what I'm supposed to do with a blog about a scared-y dog when she's not so scared-y any more.

Here's where we left off back in April of 2012:
Things Bella was still afraid of
  • People (general)
  • Dogs (general)
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • Bugs that buzz (flies, bees, etc)
  • Beeps/alarms
  • Storms (wind, heavy rain, thunder)
  • The snow-blower
  • Things that fall on the roof (acorns, stones, branches, snow...)
  • Agility obstacles (in progress):
    • Teeter-totter
    • Tippy boards
And here's we are now:
Things Bella is still afraid of
  • People
  • Other dogs
  • Beeps/alarms
  • Thunderstorms
She's still not fond of bugs - but only when they are harassing her and that's not fear, that's annoyance and rightly so.

Bella's also still not thrilled with the squirrels who seem to think the shortest distance between two points is over our bedroom roof at 6 o'clock in the morning. She still gets up and leaves but it's not the distressed, frantic scamper that it once was.

And while she's learned to self-sooth for small storms by going to the basement by herself, the considerable storms we've been having here in Massachusetts as of late have proven she will always seek our comfort for the big bad booms that go bump in the day or night. 

(To be fair, there was a thunderclap so loud and house-rattling the other day that, even though I was in the basement with her, I jumped out of my skin. I think her nervous reaction to such is what one would have to classify as, uh, normal.)

But here's something new, something that jumped out at me when I looked at the pictures in that original post. When I first wrote these lists, it never occurred to me to put something like "toenail trimming" on them because it was so far outside our realm of possibility - as you can plainly see by the dagger-like talons she's sporting in those pics.

Yikes!  Look at those claws!
Well, guess what, folks? Toe-nail trimming? It is now on her "I'm not afraid of this anymore" list!

Prior to putting Bella on Gabapentin as we did in January this year, in the 5+ years(!) I had been working with her to achieve the toenail trimming milestone, the closest I had ever been able to come was holding her foot in one hand with the Pedi-Paws turned on in the other. Any attempt to bring the buzzing tool closer to her was met with a dash into another room. (I never pushed beyond that point because it was clear she was "over threshold" and I'd be doing more harm than good.)

What follows is a tragically uninspired video of Bella getting her toenails trimmed. While it will mean little to the vast majority of people who come upon it, it represents a once unimaginable step in Bella's development to me and Jan.

There has been more than one occasion in the last 6 months where Jan and I have looked at each other and said "What happened to our dog?" Not in a bad, "oh no she's broken" kind of way but in a "how did she get to be so normal?" fashion. Her reaction, or lack thereof, to the vacuum cleaner surprises me each and every time and the fact that I can trim her toenails with (relative) ease is something I never expected to witness.

She is my brave little girl even if she did need some pharmaceutical assistance to get there.

Now that we have her under threshold as a general rule, it is incumbent upon us to teach her the coping skills she needs to survive whatever life throws her way in the future. We finally feel that's a real possibility. She is a good student, quick and eager to learn. We just have to have the patience and persistence to guide her in this journey.

And now we know, it is at least truly possible.

Author's note: We learned today that Brewster has rescue in San Diego. We are in awe of our friends, Tim and Lorrie, for the incredible heart-ache they have assumed in order to give Brewster a real shot at a happy and fear-free life. We are saddened by their loss but so incredibly happy for Brewster as he engages in this new journey. Best wishes, Brewster! Here's hoping your new family will drop a line every now and then so we can watch you flourish.

Disclaimer: If you happen to click on that link to the Pedi-Paws and decide to buy one for your own pup, I'll get a small commission. I'm pretty sure I'll not be getting rich off the deal but for the sake of full disclosure, it needs to be said. Same thing with the treats in the background: Zuke's Mini Naturals if you were wondering. Both were purchased by me and are not part of any promotion or advertisement.


  1. All those things are a big deal and wonderful news. You've helped her spend less time worrying and more time enjoying life. A worthy and loving goal. Thanks for mentioning Brew. He's on his way to freedom:)

  2. That is such an incredible difference, and there's no doubt there were many challenges overcome to achieve it. Yay, Bella!! And yay for you, too - for all you've done to provide such a loving, safe home for such a special girl!

  3. You've done a great job and from the start of when we first saw Bella, we can see something in her eye's that was worth fighting for. Look at her with all those stuffies, aw, bless those paws. Well done Bella and peeps x

  4. Wow, B! I'm impressed with your good behavior for the nail trim. I'm even more impressed with your mom's system. She's like a machine. A TREAT machine! Well done!

    Love and licks,

  5. Congrats to you and Bella for all your hard work to overcome so many fears. Hailey also hated getting her nails cut and I worked so, so hard so we could do it. It is an awesome feeling to help them overcome a fear.

  6. Yay, Bella! Way to work with her on her fears to help her live a more comfortable life. Those are awesome strides forward!

  7. That's so awesome. She has really come a long way, and all thanks to your patience and hard work.

  8. Two French BulldogsJuly 29, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    What fantastic progress!!
    Lily & Edward

  9. I'm glad the list has shrunk!

  10. And look how much you've been able to encourage others by sharing Bella's progress. I'm so happy for both of you.

    Thanks for lettings us know Brewster is on his way to a thunderstorm free life. I hope he finds his forever soon.

  11. Jan K, Wag N Woof PetsJuly 29, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Wow, that list really shrunk A LOT! Congratulations...that's a lot for you all to be proud of and happy about.

  12. You have made wonderful progress with Bella. Congratulations on the short list!

  13. Such an awesome progress. So glad for you and Bella. Great work!

  14. HOLY MOLY! Congratulations!! Every single one of those items you crossed off is a major achievement, and I'm so proud of you and Bella! The nail trimming is really inspiring to me as it's something we're still working through with Cooper. You've re-ignited my hope!!