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Ellie’s Progress

Ellie’s Progress

 

Ellie will be six years old this month and she is basically unrecognizable from when she first arrived as a shy, quiet, skinny little girl a year and a half ago. First of all, she loves to eat. She would eat second breakfast (aka Cricket’s breakfast) every morning if we didn’t keep a close eye on her. Cricket is often blasé about breakfast, but Miss Ellie is teetering on the edge of a weight problem, so we have to be careful. Second, she makes eye contact all the time and has learned to make puppy dog eyes at me to ask for more treats and scratchies whenever she wants them. She barks to go outside, and races across the hall to bark at her friend Oliver on her way out the door. And then she zooms! She does figure eights and spirals and circles out on the lawn out of sheer joy!

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“That’s me!”

She even lets me wash her butt in the sink, even though it scares her, so she doesn’t have to walk around with poop on her butt, the way Cricket chooses to do. And Ellie loves her people. At her most recent grooming appointment the groomer said, a little resentfully, that Ellie has really attached to me now (she was rescued by the groomer in the first place and then came to us).

Ellie with Gerry

“Who are you strange people?”

Ellie still pees too much indoors, though, and despite two wee wee pads (next to the front door and in my room), she still ends up peeing in the “wrong” places too often. But she seems to pee a lot more often than Cricket does, so I choose to blame her particular anatomy for this problem instead of blaming her.

Ellie is all love and enthusiasm, even when she’s sleeping, and she’s not self-conscious about her poochy belly (there used to be puppies in there, so she has an excuse!).

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I finally started to work on training with Ellie a few weeks ago, because she’s been getting extra barky lately and I wondered if teaching her some basic commands might help her as much as it would help me. Up until now I was reluctant to bother her with obedience lessons, because I was thinking of her as another Butterfly (a puppy mill mama rescued at eight years old), someone in need of freedom more than anything else. But Ellie isn’t Butterfly. She’s younger and healthier and less traumatized by her still-difficult early life as a breeding dog with a local breeder.

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“Ellie isn’t me. She’s her own special person.”

And it turns out that Cricket loves to act as role model for our training sessions, gleefully taking treats for every good “sit” and “stay” and “twirl” and “down.” Except that we had to go through an enormous amount of treats just to get a handful of good sits out of Ellie. And the process was exhausting. Ellie seemed to learn “sit,” and then unlearn it, ten times over. Cricket was a very quick learner, way back when (not that it’s done us much good), but while Miss Ellie really tries, training doesn’t seem to be her strength. She actually had solid name recall when we first brought her home (which Cricket has never managed), but that seems to have been the extent of her previous training. I have to use very small treats to train her, because she needs so many repetitions, and I ran out of the special tiny treats very quickly. I’ve been slow to re-order them, because those training sessions exhausted me so much more than they exhausted the dogs.

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“Cricket would have liked a few more treats.”

But even without formal training, Ellie has made tons of progress. When she first came home she was kind of stiff and inflexible, and I assumed it was just her body type. Cricket can curl up in a tiny ball and almost disappear, and I assumed that was just not possible for Ellie. But over time Ellie’s back has become looser, and longer, and she can curl up nose to toes just like Cricket, when she wants to, or stretch out across the couch to connect her people. Her back is like an accordion, contracting and stretching with each breath. She’s also stronger, and faster, than before, and she runs and jumps and begs for kisses while standing straight up on her hind legs.

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“Hi Mommy!”

I can’t train the sisterly relationship, though, so that’s still up to the girls. Ellie will lean on Cricket, and Cricket will lean on Ellie, but only if Cricket can pretend it’s not happening. They sniff each other for information whenever they’ve been apart for a few minutes, and they work together to demand outings, and to warn of incipient attacks by the mailman, but seconds later Cricket will act as if Ellie is a complete stranger who has wandered into our home by accident. Cricket gets especially riled up when she thinks her food and scratchies are being stolen by the interloper. And she can be quite a bully, intimidating Ellie away from the snacks.

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“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

When I try to intervene, Ellie lowers her eyes, as if to say, No, Mommy, Cricket knows best. I’ve tried to explain to Ellie that, clearly, Cricket does not know best, but Ellie doesn’t believe me and I haven’t figured out a way to train her out of her subservience, or to train Cricket into learning how to share. My hope is that, over time, Cricket will learn to find Ellie’s devotion endearing, and start to bend a little bit in return. There will be plenty of treats in it for her when that happens, and she knows it, but sometimes even treats aren’t enough motivation.

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“Wait, when are treats not enough? Cricket, is this one of those unanswerable koans?”

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“Do you see what you’ve done?”

 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

 

 

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

78 responses »

  1. What a treat to have this post come up just as I finished writing mine. I love how different the two dogs are and their tentative truces with each other. Ellie really has changed since you got her, and it is wonderful to have you describe all the ways she has become more flexible, both factually and metaphorically. My daughter’s barky Maltese –who knows what else mix has calmed down a lot wearing some kind of collar which emits pheromones.They smell nice too. They last about a month I think. First thing that worked. She didn’t respond to all the other ideas people gave her including CBD oil.

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  2. Training is an ongoing process here – every single day. Maverick is just way too smart so I have to keep thinking of things to keep him interested. Check out Ian Dunbar – just for his accent if not for his training tips. Treats – can you use their kibble? Measure it out in the morning and use it as treats throughout the day. That way you don’t have to worry about weight gain. If you haven’t, check out Gracie’s Doggie Delights – the girls will thank you 🙂

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  3. I am so happy to hear about Ellie. She is adorable. So is Cricket! The fact that they (kind of) get along is huge. I never trained my dogs. They probably thought their names were “Want a treat?” since that was the only way I ever got them to do anything…Ah well, as long as they (and you) are happy, that’s what matters. A very happy read, Rachel.

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  4. So glad, but not surprised, to hear that Ellie is doing well!

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  5. What a great post !
    Ellie ♡♡♡

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  6. Your two lovely girls are a never ending source of joy, love and entertainment.

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  7. Miss Ellie hit the jackpot. It took way too long for me to discover the joys of a two- or three-dog household. Oh, and that quilt-in-progress in one of the photos? Stunning. (Sorry Cricket; you’re stunning, too.)

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  8. Enjoyed your post. Just finished reading Yeshiva Girl too. It’s very well written. 🙂

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  9. Happy Birthday Ellie! You are a beautiful pup, and I’m so very glad you have found a home where you are understood and loved.

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  10. The interaction between two dogs is unpredictable and ever changing.

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  11. Oh gosh, this reminds me of the dynamic between my two boys. I also found that when I tried to train my younger dog, the two pups would work together to steal treats from me. At least they were getting along then, right?

    You should be so pleased that Ellie has grown and blossomed into such a beautiful pup. She is a physical manifestation of your love.

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  12. Can we go easy on the “poochy belly” comments? Both Max and I are a little sensitive about that topic. Thanks in advance.

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  13. You are clearly a loving pet “Mom”. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, Rachel! ❤

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  14. I was so grateful that I didn’t have to train Ollie to do anything. He seems to have been born with instinctive ‘best-boy’ behaviour.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  15. Poor Ellie! Getting poop stuck in one’s tail feathers is not a fun thing, and the bath… well, not necessarily appreciated, but necessary. Of course, living with a groomer helps because she knows what can be done to minimize that problem.

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  16. She is adorable! Bless you for giving her a wonderful home and life!

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  17. What a great success story for both you and Ellie. So great to know how far she has come!

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  18. It’s wonderful to watch rescue dogs ‘unbend’ when they find a loving home and feel safe to show their true personalities.You’re obviously doing a great job! I wouldn’t worry too much about Cricket being the more dominant dog, she is probably closer to alpha than Ellie and this might be their natural pecking order.

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  19. So delighted to learn that you adopt rescue dogs! As you know, rescue is very close to my heart … I’ll soon be posting an update on the German Shepherd we took in. He is wonderful, as are so many rescues.

    If I may offer a suggestion… Instead of having training “sessions”, try incorporating training into your daily life. They should work for meals, and they can practise sit, dow.n, etc at random moments during the day. Also, once they know a command they should get a treat only sometimes. Intermittent rewards are much more effective than getting one every time.

    Hmmm… There are other things I’d like to say … Maybe I should simply write a blog post and link to your post. Would that be okay?

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  20. So hard to believe it’s been 18 months Rachel! She’s come on in leaps and bounds. Wonderful, so she must be content.

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  21. We too have had issues with our two rescues. They each have different questionable behaviors but they have become a bonded pair. If one has to go out without the other it is deemed a tragedy of the first order. When returned a check over to make sure all is well ensues. They are my loved pair and I belong to them.

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  22. So happy Ellie is doing well and enjoying the good life with her humans and Cricket!

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  23. It’s wonderful to hear how Ellie has progressed…it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 1 1/2 years! Sounds like Cricket will always be the alpha dog, and dominant over Ellie. The best thing you can do about that (after making sure Ellie is not being hurt physically) is acknowledge Cricket’s position in the pack and treat her accordingly. Fed first, out the door first, pet first, even bathed first. Of course, you should always be the alpha over Cricket, LOL. As I’m sure you know, figuring out another species is not always easy!

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  24. I buy the generic bathroom wipes for my dog’s butt. He actually stands still and lets me clean him, which surprised me.

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  25. Fell in love with Ellie..and your posts..♥️♥️

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  26. Honestly so adorable

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  27. 1. You are such an engaging writer that I will definitely search for your book + well done! Wow! A book! 2. Still intrigued about the non-flexibility or “stiffness” Ellie had in the beginning of her new life with you. Do you suppose it was a case of learning to trust that she was safe in her new surroundings and could later relax into it? Trust=flexibility? Come to think of it, we all display that a bit. Hmmm. Terrific post, as always!

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  28. She seems so sweet. Glad she found such an accepting forever home.

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  29. Adorable! Love that this little ball of light and energy is in your life:).

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  30. i love this furrball he is so cute

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  31. Have you tried a clicker for training?

    Regarding dog psychology, it makes sense that there is a dominance hierarchy, and that the dogs will follow the rules of their society.

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  32. How could you ever resist anything from those precious faces? If they lived in my house they’d be spoiled rotten. 🙂

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  33. Rachel, your writing is so warm and caring. Love the way you describe Ellie’s personality. Thank you, great post.

    Reply

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