Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Triumph of the Ordinary

Petting, touching, handling, snuggling, cuddling--all things that are remarkably ordinary when you live with pets; you're used to sitting down and having a furry friend join you or having a dog or cat begging for petting and attention. It's completely ordinary and taken for granted. That is, unless you live with a Finna. 

When we adopted Finna she was uncomfortable being petted, at the time I put it down to fear. When I discovered recently that she has no idea how to cuddle I realized something that makes my heart break for her. Dogs that are being raised to fight get better socialization than she did, they get more handling and more time with people. Michael Vicks dogs were probably better socialized than Finna! No one ever handled this dog before she came to live with us, no one petted her, loved her, played with her, or even simply examined her with touch. I often think there needs to be a special place in the darkest pits for people who instead of nurturing those that are dependent on them neglect and abuse them. Whether the dependent one walks on two legs or four if you've accepted them into your life you owe them care, care that Finna is only now coming to know and expect.

Since I realized that Finna didn't know how to snuggle or cuddle I've been trying to spend a few minutes every day laying on the floor and asking her to cuddle with me. Sometimes I've managed to get her to lay down by my feet or just out of reach for a minute or two but for the most part my success has been limited to a couple of seconds of cuddling before Finna gets overwhelmed and refuses to cooperate. It's hard to believe that I'm having to actively spend time teaching her something that is so unremarkable and ordinary. That's why it was such a triumphant victory recently when Finna came, hopped up in my chair with me, lay down along the arm of the chair and went to sleep. She only slept for about five minutes and freaked out when she woke up because my elbow was too near her sore leg (just some growl and grumble) before hopping down and sacking out on the floor but simply that she would sleep next to me was a huge victory. My lessons on snuggling seem to have paid off.

Victories like this are what make it all worthwhile. It's the triumph of getting behaviors that in other dogs would be so normal, so ordinary, as to be totally ordinary that keeps me hoping and keeps us working to rehabilitate our damaged dog. Today she smiles a lot and she's learning to cuddle and snuggle. Finna is gradually growing to more and more resemble an ordinary dog and that is a huge victory and triumph!

Finna is getting ready for a nap in her newly completed Finna Bin--a plywood crate we built for her. I like the way you can see her eyelids getting heavier and heavier.


  1. Does Finna cuddle with Ranger or the cats? I know she had hardly any experience with humans, but wondered if her deprivation extended to other furries. If so, that would be too sad. Glad you are making steady (if slow) progress with her. Impressed with the Finna Bin (Finna Binna?) :-)

    1. She doesn't really cuddle with Ranger or the cats. She plays with them and rubs up against Ranger often but I kind of think the other critters have decided she's still just too crazy to trust as a cuddle buddy. She just had surgery for a partially (85%) ruptured cruciate ligament and I've been impressed by the fact that The Great Catsby and Ranger check on her when she's shut up in her bin. They look through the holes and sniff and Catsby even reaches in.

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