WARNING: Usually this blog is light hearted but the post below is a sad one. I am probably taking it harder than I should, but if you are don't want to read a post that may make you sad, skip this one because there are plenty of much more light-hearted ones to read.
It is often hard to know which of Alvin's behaviors are from possible abuse and which ones are just innately part of who he is. He has a large scar on this side and so we know he suffered an injury, accidental or otherwise, I just don't know. His fear of being picked and being pet on his head and back makes me suspect abuse. In any other dog it would be clearer but coupled with his other behaviors, I often just don't know. Last night I discovered a behavior that makes the abuse suspicion much stronger.
As you all know, we have worked very hard on getting Alvin to be more comfortable with touch. For those who haven't followed along from the beginning, I spent the first month lying on the ground a lot because he was more comfortable with the idea of touch when I was not standing over him. It was a long process, with very slow progress, and involved a great deal of anxiety and running away on his part. Over the past eight months we have graduated to me often being able to repeatedly stroke his back while he stays in his dog bed. When he goes to sleep at night, I repeatedly approach him, crouch down, and pet him because when he is drowsy he allows me to pet him more. He usually sits up in the bed when I come in and then gradually lies back down while I continue to pet him. This has been significant improvement from the time when he would leap out of the bed before I could even touch him. I have been blinded by the progress, and although I noticed that he often tucks his face as far into the dog bed as he can, I assumed it was because he was going back to sleep and I was thrilled that he could get that comfortable. I was a bit perplexed because although he tucks his head way in, he doesn't actually fall asleep. Last night, as I was petting him and he tucked his head in, it became clear that he was trying to protect his face. UGHHH! Stick a dagger in my heart. He has displayed more comfort and receptiveness to me petting his head and back if I keep my free hand where his nose can touch it and he can see it at all times. When I remember to do so, he keeps his nose on the free hand, while I pet his back and he is noticeably more relaxed. It was last night that I realized that he tucks his face away from me when my other hand is not visible. Once I made the connection, it was so obvious.
I don't understand abusing any animal but Alvin is the most innocent being I have ever known. He doesn't bark, he isn't assertive, he is just innocent and gentle. The questions of why, how could someone, start flooding me. I don't know why or how, but I do know that I will keep my free hand where he can see it for as long as it takes until he can know that no hand will ever be used to do anything other than comfort him. My sweet, sweet angel!