For the entire time I’ve had him, Bartleby has been anxious in the car. He whimpers, he fusses, he climbs around, he tries to get into my lap while I drive or escape from his carrier if I’ve used it. It makes sense–one day last summer, his people must have stuck him in a car and then dropped him off all alone, totally throwing his world into chaos, so it’s not as if it’s unreasonable for him to be worried about car rides. Dogs remember trauma, even if they don’t exactly remember the details.
When we went on vacation, I figured he’d calm down. An hour or two on the road, and he’d relax.
Not so much.
Writing about it now, it does seem a little optimistic of me, but I thought he’d get tired and go to sleep. And the RV was nice and big with plenty of places for a dog to nap, especially for a dog who likes to hide in small spaces. Under the table, behind the bed, on the floor of the passenger-side seat–lots of options.
Instead he cried and fussed and tried to get in my lap and was a general pain for days. He made himself thoroughly unpleasant to R, growling and snapping at him when I was driving. He also had ear infections for which he needed daily ear cleanings and ear drops and he was miserable about those. He wound up biting me once, actually drawing blood, when I was trying to hold him still and I finally had to muzzle him twice daily. Eesh.
But I persevered, of course, and we were on the road, so it wasn’t as if I could change plans, and when he was mean to R, I made sure to be super-nice to R, petting his arms and talking softly to him. R thought that was creepy, I think, but Bartleby needed to see that R outranked him in our pack and that growling at R meant R got attention and love. That was my theory, anyway.
I think it was a good theory. By the time we were driving home, Bartleby had relaxed. His favorite seat was the front passenger side. He’d curl up in it and sleep, then stand up on his back legs, peek out the window, check the road, then lie back down and go back to sleep again. He stopped whimpering and while he didn’t exactly get easy about his ear drops, I don’t have to muzzle him every time anymore. And he stopped growling at R, as far as I can judge.
And I think my optimism has been rewarded. Now that we’re at home, Bartleby is being a sweetheart. Over the course of the year that he’s been with me, he relaxed a lot. He went from constantly hiding to generally hanging out with us. He’s a lap dog, and loves to be held and petted, but he also… well, expects to be ignored, if that makes sense. He’s a self-sufficient little guy. (Not literally, obviously–he does not go out hunting his own dinner.) In the last week, though, he seems to have gone from a reserved affection to decided fondness. Nothing like Zelda’s level of devotion, of course–Zelda is the poster girl for unconditional doggie adoration. But a notch up. So much so that he is now (for the first time) responding to his name when called, sitting down upon command whether or not I have dinner in my hand, and every once in a while tentatively licking me. I would think it cute how careful he is with his kisses, if I didn’t mostly think it’s sad that he’s so cautious.
He’s still getting ear drops and he still hates it, but he watches me and listens to me, and mostly puts up with it. Such a good dog he is.
In a related R story, R found a Yorkie in the road the other day. No tag, no collar, tangled fur. He made his friend stop her car so he could get out and get the dog out of the road and then they wandered door to door for a bit looking for an owner. And/or someone who would take the dog off their hands. He said he spent the whole time with a deep fear that he was going to wind up bringing the dog home with him and that we would end up with four dogs living with us. I think maybe he’s afraid that I’m turning into the dog version of the crazy cat lady. But eventually an owner came out of a house and claimed the Yorkie, so with much relief, he was free. He told me this story and I laughed, as I was meant to, but afterwards, I was so ridiculously filled with pride. He stumbled across a lost dog and he didn’t just leave it in danger or to be someone else’s problem. He took the time to make sure the dog was safe. Such a good boy he is.