A trainer once joked that we did too good of a job restoring Shiva’s confidence. Most of the time it’s hard to believe she was ever once a quivering mess at the sight of a plastic bag blowing in the wind. The days of her barking at dalmatian statues and garden gnomes are long behind us.
Thank the gods.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Shiva has become the bravest living creature I have ever known. It seems like nothing phases her. She runs down crumbling cliffs, leaps onto ledges higher than my head, and takes hits from the cat and goes back for more. But just because she doesn’t ever seem scared, it doesn’t mean she is invulnerable to fear.
I can’t forget that.
Near the end of a walk one day this week, I called Shiva over to put her leash back on. I did the usual routine and dropped a pile of treats on the ground for her to munch while I clipped the leash. She was a bit distracted, kept sniffing the air and then the ground, but I didn’t think much of it. The only thing that did register is that she didn’t immediately gobble up the kibble pieces with her usual half-starved gusto.
There is a small parking lot at the park entrance and about this time a car pulled up right by the gate. I glanced over, and then turned back to Shiva, pointing out the treats she had missed.
“Look Shivers! There are still four pieces left! Can you not seem them?”
My words were drowned out by the sound of barking. I looked over again and saw three dogs running from the car straight toward us, making a lot of noise along the way. Rolling my eyes, I reached into my pocket to give Shiva a few more treats before moving the heck out of there.
Funny thing was, she wasn’t looking at me like she normally does in such situations. Nor was she pulling on the leash to get to the dogs. Instead, she remained seated beside me, ears glued to the back of her head, breathing out of her nose in short exhalations. I called her name and showed her the treats but she didn’t acknowledge. When I shoved the food under her nose, she just looked away.
That was essentially my thought process. By this time two of the dogs had reached us and were standing around barking. After a few more attempts to get Shiva’s attention, I decided it was best to just leave.
As we walked up the hill toward the gate, the owner of the dogs was just emerging from his vehicle. He said something to me, I think, but I didn’t hear him because I was too busy staring at Shiva’s tail.
It was between her legs. I hadn’t seen it there since the first few weeks she lived with us.
Once the park was a ways behind us, I was able to get her to take treats again. Phew! But she still looked stressed out and her tail didn’t move. I got her to do some simple tricks and nose-touches and her tail still didn’t wag. Not at all normal for the goofy Shivster. Feeling a little freaked myself, I decided to run.
We ran almost the whole way home. I tried to keep my voice light and happy as I encouraged her. By the time we reached our front door, her tail was up and her body was loose. Her ears pricked when I gave her some treats and she was acting like nothing had happened.
Something definitely had. I just wish I knew what it was so we could avoid it in the future. She has never shut down on me like that before. Not ever. It’s just not her style. If she is upset or scared, she usually barks or overtly displays her unhappiness in some other way. She doesn’t turn off.
It wasn’t just the dogs. Sure, they were annoying and Shiva probably wasn’t happy about them. However, she’s been in many situations like that before and handled them fine. If she was going to lose it, she would let you know loud and clear. I’ve never heard her breathe that way and she’s never turned away from food, not even when she had heat stroke. When Shiva isn’t gobbling treats, you know something is very, very wrong.
But what happened? What caused her to go in on herself like that? Has your dog ever acted completely out of character?