Thursday, December 25, 2014

One month with Rex...

And it has been an amazing month!

The changes our dog and our life underwent are amazing! I/we are getting out a lot more, not just because we need to walk the dog, but we also take or try to take one at least one hour walk every day and introduce him to our little corner of the world.
At first we let him get used to us, our voices and our moves, the house, the immediate area around it, but quite soon we started to extend that circle. One of the first things we did, was getting rid of the box with "toys" that came with him. Nothing but plastic crap and ripped up stuffed animals! Deadwrong!! We threw them in the garbagecan and bought him some real dog toys, like a bone made out of dried rawhide. He had no clue what to make of that (still doesn't), even after I showed him... quite literally. He is nuts about tennisballs though.
After a week we started on socialising him. My parents in law came over and all went exceptionally well! He got a huge oxbone, but had no clue what to do with it, although he does now! One morning he lay beside it and our red cat came in, walked over and started liking an gnawing it. He just looked... and did nothing. But only on that occassion! After that he fiercely defended his bone from the cat! And he just can not leave them alone. He had a few punches on the nose, but without claws... There is a healthy respect towards them, but he also wants to play and get close and sometimes becomes a bit pushy. Yet the hisses and growls are getting less threatening and frequent.

The days previous to this month's full moon we noticed that we had an additional familymember susceptible to nearingfullmoonvibes... He got more and more nervous and jumpy.
December's full moon had a special surprise for us in store.
The night was frosty and cold, the sky was crystal clear and my youngest daughter and I looked at the skies in awe. There weren't that many stars visible, but the moon was almost blazing as the sun! So bright... I can not remember having seen it like that often before.
The constant changing weather and temperatures in that period meant that now the air was cold, but the lakes were still relatively warm. This combination make the frozen lakes "steam". The humid air fell down to the water level and condensed, shrouding the surface of the lake in a spooky mist, swirling and rising, lit from behind by the bright moon. A wolfhowl would have meant the finishing touch...

Speaking of which...
During the first week of december there has been a wolfsighting in the village, a mere 400 meters to the north of us. Allegedly the wolf passed between the houses there. Now everyone is going nuts around here. People urging you to keep your dogs leashed, because they might be mistaken for wolves and many a "hunter" here has an twitchy triggerfinger and a general feeling towards wolves that will make them bend that finger first and ask questions later.
Now people start to see wolves everywhere. The neighbouring villages all have their own story.... An army of lone wolves has invaded our part of the world!!

Like I said, the weather has been constantly changing; frost and open skies one day, snow the next, wind, rain, sleet and thaw the day after that to only change to frost again. Conditions were pretty hopeless. Weather for broken bones and hypothermia! Don't be fooled by the wintery pictures. On other occasions I had no chance on taking pictures. Too busy to keep my footing! Or camera dry....
On some days the road surface was a single, flat, shiny surface of ice, maybe even covered with water. And oh, what fun it is to be out in that with a dog that has tons of energy and just wants to go and pull....pull...pull.... Because that's what he wants to do! Makes you learn where to look to put your feet for a firm footing real fast!
This constant changing of weather and temperature also has an audible effect; the ice is in constant movement, extending, contracting as it thaws and refreezes, which creates the weirdest and scariest sounds imaginable! It groans and wails with long outdrawn sounds, changing in volume and and intensity. Occasionally it releases its tensions with a sharp bouncing sounds, like a pressurised coil being let loose or gives with a whipping crack. These sounds roll through the valley and I really can understand that folks used to think of those sounds as spirits or ghosts! They are loud and creepy enough to wake me up in the middle of the night.

Another experience with him was when I was walking him late one evening. It was a moonless, starless, overcast night and some of the streetlights in our village weren't working. As I often do, I turned off my headlight, just to feel the darkness. Yes, it gets that dark. On this particular night there was some snow on the ground. Enough to turn the lakes and streets white as a sheet, yet not enough to cover the fields. These were still a mottled white. Behind that rose the dark wall of the forest edge and over it hung the low clouds, vaguely lit by the scattered, remaining dome of light of some of the larger living areas in our part of the world. The nearest one is 35km away... It was a beautiful yet ominous site. Quite impressive I can tell you.
Add to that the groaning, mooing and wailing sounds of the ice and it becomes quite eery actually.

Something else I am learning to look at, is Rex himself. It is fascinating to study him and learn his body language. Learning from that, makes me see more tracks and wildlife! He is quite enthusiastic with his nose, but regularly gives away clues that something "special" was there. It makes me pay even more attention to the immediate area and I see animal signs more often. I also see more animals themselves, too. If there is anything near, he will stop dead in his tracks, stand tall and still, focussed, his eyes and ears peeled..... And sometimes I can see what he is seeing; a marten, a squirrel or even a pair of them, clung to the stem of a pine...
It gets slightly unnerving when he does that and I can not see what he is seeing.... Be that in broad daylight in the middle of the forest or in the above described darkness, on the edge of field and forest.... with nothing in between... it..... and us. Not that I fear the animals, but annoying a fullgrown moose out there in the open......
On other occasions he will simply turn into the wind, make himself taller than he already is, lift his nose and just gaze upon the area in front of him, taking it all in.... On those moments he truly is a Rex!

Unfortunately he also shows signs of trauma. He grovels and creeps across the floor as soon as one of us raises his voice against him. Not shouting or yelling, just raising it is enough... He winces and turns and he desperately tries to appease us.
We also noticed that he is scared out of his wits by large, dark pieces of cloth. We found out when we tried to dry and clean him up a bit after a long walk in wet, muddy conditions. It was real sad to see him cower behind the livingroom chairs.... We have a long road ahead of us.

Is it all love, fun and games, then?
No, certainly not. We are of course experiencing growing pains, while we are getting accustomed to each other. In my case that sometimes was quite literally so, as he swept me off my feet, when trying a (very) long leash. While I was trying to untangle the damn thing, Rex took off..... By the time he had reached the end of the line he was at full speed and I had not noticed the loop around my feet... He had so much speed that my feet were swept up in the air and I crash landed shoulder and hip first into the frozen and icy road.
Another time he gave me a full blown headbutt, slamming his skull onto the edge of my left eye socket, as he came storming down the stairs, making a sharp left turn, while jumping up.... I was just bent over, tying my boots.... and I will not mention the bloody nose... where yours truly was on the receiving end yet again in a similar matter...
In both occasions, after a series of smaller incidents those days, I lost my temper and shouted at him ( in those circumstances I do have a voice of a Prussian sergeant-major on an exercise field would've be proud off) and that does not sit well with him. He seems scared of me now or at least intimidated and I might have to work on him trusting me again. A good lesson in patience for me as well.
He is often restless, behaving like a juvenile delinquent or constantly seeking attention.... preferably in the middle of the night.... 5 or 6 times. Feels like having a small child again, which is in puberty and has ADHD.
We really need to find ways to channel his seemingly boundless energy and I am hoping for more snow than the 2-3cm we have right now. For now we have to be content with that and double digit minus temperatures. For we are having real winter right now!

But then again, he has only been with us for a month and the progress we have made with him is huge! Yes, he can be a tad stubborn or pigheaded, but I would not want a slave-like obedient dog anyway! And his obedience is growing by the day. We are already in the process of learning him the outdoorcommands, still figuring out which ones work best for us and him. And I know he will become less of a loose canon on deck as he matures. He still has some growing to do, both mentally and physically.
And yet... his youthfulness does have its positive effects.... It helps me getting of my butt and playing with him really is fun.... despite his powerfull bite sometimes. I do have funny dark and yellow marks on hands and lower arms..

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