Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All About Alvin

I became Alvin's foster mom about three weeks ago.  I hadn't planned to take another foster dog but often life's best surprises come about when we don't make plans.  I have been a social worker for the past 13 years and have worked primarily with abused and neglected children in foster care.  When I met Alvin I could not help but be reminded of many of the kids I have worked with in the past but the difference is Alvin is a much bigger mystery because we don't know anything of his past and he cannot speak in the language that I depend upon.  So, this is the journey of me learning Alvin's language because he clearly has a lot to communicate and I can already tell that I have a lot to learn.  What I do know is that Alvin is the most nervous, fretful dog that I have ever known.  He exhibits a lot of mysterious behavior, such as repetitive circling, which is affectionately known in my house as Alvin's looping.  He does a lot of odd things with his mouth that do not appear to be due to medical issues, but rather behavioral or developmental issues.  He stares at people for hours.  He has a great deal of difficulty being touched.  He exhibits rituals with his mouth and nose that he needs to do when anything new that comes into his environment.  He does not bark but when he is terribly stressed he makes a noise that sounds very much like what a puppy sounds like when trying to nurse on its mother.  He steps on the back of my heels when I am walking and often trips me by darting in front of me or between my legs.  If I am wearing a skirt he often jumps up and grabs it with his teeth while I am walking.  He is very afraid of being up on anything like a couch or a bed.  He reacts to the smallest change by repetitive circling.  He reminds me a great deal of an autistic child and I call him my little Rain Man.

Here is what we know about Alvin.  He came in as a stray to a shelter in the Los Angeles area.  He was fearful and had difficulty letting people touch him from the beginning.  He exhibited his looping behavior right away.  He is estimated to be between 3-5 years old.  He looked relatively well groomed.  Both of his back knees were out and he later required double knee surgery.  He has now been in rescue for close to a year-and-a-half.  He was in a foster home with a lot of other dogs and although he got along with the other dogs, it was difficult to do any one-on-one work with him because he couldn't compete with the other bolder dogs.  So, he's stuck with me for the time being and I am eager to share all the mysteries and marvels that are a part of little Alvin's big life.

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