Well, it’s been more than a year since we’ve provided an update on the behavioral adjustment project that is Birdie.
Birdie was always a dog who needed to have things done according to his understanding of the pattern and situation. Any significant variation would require him to reevaluate what he knew and had begun to be comfortable with. His progress in expanding his horizon and range of acceptable situations was advanced with generous dosages of TLC and dairy products (sharp cheddar cheese, whipped cream, etc.) Having been taken off his meds in 2012, he made significant progress with the world not zipping by him in his altered state.
Last year, Birdie and the rest of our pack met Carol and Liz (among others) at the Companion Parade at the BCoA 2014 National Specialty. He was observed meeting and leaning on a variety of strangers.
Part of the behavior modification included hand feeding him (and the others) little cubes of cheese while we were eating dinner. Birdie had progressed from retreating after getting the “safe” limit of 2-3 pieces to prodding my arm with his nose if I was a little too slow on distributing the next round.
Another pattern was established was my providing a round of small treats when I came home from work. This started out with Birdie giving a round of alert barking (from the back of the house) as soon as I had shut my car door. This evolved to his waiting until I was visible through the kitchen window to giving a bark or two call the other dogs and to tell me that it was time to distribute the treats. This also included times when he would take the treat directly from my hand.
Every evening around 9:00, we would give the dogs a dollop of canned dog food as a bedtime snack. Shortly after he arrived, this involved going out in the yard to corral Birdie and persuade him that it was safe to come in and get the snack. This pattern had morphed into Birdie being the timekeeper/clock watcher and walking into the back room if I was being distracted by working on the computer. To assure that I knew that he was there in the room with me, he would utter a little yip and wait for me to follow him down the hall for distribution.
When Sally and I would settle down in the evening with a cup of coffee and a light dessert, the dogs were all part of the act. Typically, they would get pieces of ginger snaps, other times they would insist in sharing cobbler with whipped cream or pudding. Birdie had progressed to the point where he no longer retreated after getting a couple pieces, to prodding my arm with his nose if I was neglecting the canine distributions. There were also times when I wasn’t paying close attention, that I found a brindle nose examining the contents of my plate. At times he would even lie down on one of the dog beds in the room, something that would have been inconceivable previously.
While he was still cautious when he was around me, Birdie had progressed beyond the point where every incident was cause for dread fear and anxiety. It was clear that he was more relaxed and comfortable with the things that happened around the house.
It is however with deep regret that this is the last progress report for Birdie.
Yesterday morning, Sally was awakened by a yip and a brief howl from the porch. When she went out, she saw Bond standing there with Birdie lying down on one of the pads. When she felt his chest, he was in defibrillation and he passed away quickly. Birdie has flown the coop and another of the Florida 14 has gone to The Bridge.
It isn’t easy to describe how Birdie’s time with us and his quirky personality has touched our hearts.
Laika’s Flight of the Phoenix
15 January 2005 – 02 August 2014