It wasn’t good enough. Having Hershey less scared of the broom wasn’t a victory. It didn’t purge the monster who had beaten her so memorably from her life. It was still sad to see her slink out of the room whenever I swept.
Normally, having an excuse to not have to clean is great! This was more important than my laziness though. This was about the quality of my dog’s life; this was about her not having to live in fear, and with somethings she wasn’t. Out in the yard, a stick or yard tool in my hand no longer sent her running for the far corner! Sticks or a Chuckit! at the dog park were no longer objects of terror.
So after a hiatus (six months maybe, probably more like a year) we started up again. The good news was that what we had worked on before had held! We could start off this second time around with her touching the broom right away!
To up the ante further the broom was going to touch her! Needless to say, Hershey was dubious of this plan. The pattern was the same as before: Broom, retreat, resetting (or resitting) repeat with broom, reward any sign of progress. Eventually that worked too! The broom could touch her!
Still, I couldn’t actually sweep around her. It was hard to juggle sweeping and treating at the same time. If I left treats on the ground they’d be gobbled too fast and she’d be free to flee after she’d sucked them all up! At the suggestion of a friend who’d used it training her own dogs I tried… Cheez Wiz. It can’t be gobbled up all at once, she had to stay and keep licking if she wanted it, and boy did she want it!
After that, it was like the fear was gone. I could get out the broom, and sweep and not have to worry. In a few short weeks she went from wary but laying on the couch, to dead to the world while I chased the dust bunnies to their inevitable doom. In a month or two I forgot that it was even an issue. I was sweeping, she was laying on the couch (she does actually move, I swear!) and I stopped and remembered what she’d been through to get there. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
So everything was fixed, her fears have been banished forever, never to trouble her again.
I sincerely wish.
In the last few months I’ve noticed a pattern. The fear of brooms has generalized to anything unusual, or unexpected in my (or other’s) hand: a bottle, wine glass, hose, magnifying glass, anything she hasn’t seen before (or often) evokes a response. She doesn’t flee the room like the bad old days but she is nervous and hesitant to come close when an unknown thing is in my hand.
The fear that was beaten into her at such a young age is still there. It may be withered and dry, but like any weed it is adapting to conditions and trying to resurface. How do we beat it now? Will we really be able to? Maybe some part of it will be there her whole life. But for now, I can be satisfied with the fact that she can sleep on the couch while I clean up around her.