It’s the little things
Susie-Belle’s been living with us for almost four years, Twinkle for two and a half. Most of the time, with Susie-Belle, she shows normal dog behaviour and attitude. She’s a sassy character, with plenty of spark and joie de vivre and people don’t readily recognise that scratch her veneer of normality and below lies a dog who’s learned to cope in the world, learned to quell her anxieties and keep the ghosts of her past out of her current world. She’s a happy dog, no doubt about it when she’s with us and friends. And, when we keep her world peaceful, familiar and safe.
Twinkle’s getting there, but she’s a long way from feeling the confidence that Susie-Belle shows. Twinkle brought with her a different set of issues, damage and behavioural challenges when she came to us. In the new book, due out in a month, “Saving One More” I share many examples of how we’ve adapted our ways in order to guide Twinkle to be able to live in freedom, with as much inner peace as we can help her achieve. It’s not been easy for her and she’s most certainly learning new things and thinking new thoughts each day.
What has helped both Susie-Belle and Twinkle is us keeping to daily routines, despite a life where we travel often, it’s not unusual travel for them, as we’re always going between the same two places, our home in the UK, or France, and they’ve both adapted to that without problems. So long as they’re with us, and we keep their daily routines it doesn’t seem to matter where we are, they’ve always settled well.
The last couple of days however have been enlightening. We’ve been in France now for the last 3 months at the house which is an old, rickety, run down place and we’ve had to do some maintenance work. It’s been quite noisy at times, different people coming and going, but the dogs have all coped well and we’ve made sure they’ve had their space to themselves, and our routines with them haven’t changed. But, their home has changed around them and yesterday it brought it home to Michel and I how very far from normal Susie-Belle and Twinkle are.
We’ve had a new staircase fitted. We very much had the dogs in mind when we knew we’d do this, and the spec included making it ‘dog friendly’ which meant not too steep or narrow as Susie-Belle is not a great stair climber. So, first day of use yesterday and first up was Renae, cautious at first, naturally, but then up and down she went, perfectly happily, completely normally. I knew I’d have to carry Susie-Belle up, but hoped she’d manage the descent. How wrong I was. She will not venture anywhere near the top of it. Yesterday she paced around, tippy tappy pawsteps clicking on the wooden floor as we waited and encouraged, offered all her usual tempting foodie lures. She was quite plainly terrified of the new stairs. And remains so.
Next up, Twinkle, who is fit, athletic, can jump several feet into the air when she feels like it, so we know there’s no problem with her physically coping with it. But same as Susie-Belle, she is clearly finding the new item, new way of moving up and around the house, too mentally challenging and will not even attempt an ascent yet, although thankfully she comes down them fine. We’ve enlisted Renae who sweetly, carefully goes up and down showing her sisters the way and while both watch her every movement, clearly taking more guidance from her than our attempts at helping them, neither will follow their sister-guide. We can only hope that time will help them both settle with their new stairs. In the meantime, we’re getting fit carrying not one, but two schnauzers up and down. And in the case of Twinkle, it’s preceded by her pacing about, round and round in circles in the room before settling long enough to allow herself to be picked up by one of us.
Our girls are happy and fairly normal to the outside world, but their inner peace is clearly fragile enough to be shaken by new stairs. The distinct differences between their responses and Renae’s has strikingly brought it home to us how very far from normal they both are. But then, as my favourite Maya Angelou says: