When I first started fostering Alvin and he made his first sign of progress in the receiving physical affection department, someone made a joke saying, next thing 'ya know Alvin will be rolling over and letting you scratch his belly. It was entirely a joke and we all laughed because the idea was absurd. Now before I knock you all over with a feather, Alvin did not roll over and let me scratch his belly but what did actually occur was equally as charming.
Early this morning while Alvin was sound asleep on the bed, he was in a position where his belly was exposed. I couldn't help it and reached over and started scratching his belly. Alvin is a very sound sleeper but he eventually woke up and I fully expected him to jump up like he has done all the other times I have attempted this maneuver. Instead, Alvin was able to lie there and let me scratch his belly to the point that his little back leg got thumping. I quit after a couple of minutes and after he had fallen back to sleep I tried it again and he let me continue to scratch his belly again. I honestly couldn't believe it and was so happy.
My mom is spending the night at my house tonight because she has had some issues with her legs and I prefer to have her here where I can keep an eye on her. Alvin is devoted to her like none other and faithfully remains in the room with her, lying on the floor and keeping watch over her. I went in a few minutes ago to check on my mom and Alvin looked so cute that I could resist but to sit on the floor with him and start scratching him on his favorite spots. I try to go out every day to his favorite place outside and when I sit there with him, his demeanor changes and he is much bolder and is able to receive physical affection and also give it. He will often put his head in my lap and let me scratch him for quite a while. For those of you who have followed from the beginning, you may recall that during the first couple of months Alvin was here we did all of our connecting on the bedroom floor. I even slept on the floor with him because he was so fearful. Once he progressed to a certain level I stopped that routine but tonight I felt compelled sit down. Wow! I have really missed out on some quality time with that little guy because once again, he was an entirely different dog. He gave me little kisses on my nose, laid his face against my chest, and just about climbed into my pajama top. He is so gentle and innocent in his movements and I had forgotten about our special times initially connecting and trusting on the bedroom floor. Clearly Alvin had not. I alternated between sitting and lying on the floor and when I laid down, Alvin placed his head and neck across my hip in a way that is difficult to describe. If he wasn't so innocent and submissive it would have almost been a dominance pose but there is nothing about Alvin that is dominant. It was as though he was trying his best to be as physically close to me as possible and it's clear that he feels safest when he is able to be "taller" than the human being. He had to do a couple of loops and I didn't call him or try to convince him to come back to me because I wanted to see what he wanted and sure enough, not only did he come back but he pressed against me, with that tail wagging away. After spending about 20 minutes of this bonding time I decided to really up the ante. I didn't think it would actually work but I'm always up for a new adventure with Alvin. I reached under his chest while he was standing up and began to scratch his belly and I will be darned if the boy didn't stand there and let me do it. It clearly felt good to him and most importantly, he wasn't scared. If I tried to reach his belly from the side it felt too vulnerable to him but when I reached under his chest it felt safe enough for him.
I realize that with any other dog this wouldn't even be a passing thought, much less an entire blog entry and even with Alvin, some of you may be questioning while this is even worthy of being read. If you have followed Alvin's story from the beginning when he wouldn't even enter the same room as me and would stand for hours, 20 feet away from me while staring, then you realize that getting to the point of scratching his belly feels like winning the gold medal in the canine Olympics.
Alvin has gone through a change very recently. I went to see my best friend in Arizona for five nights and my mom stayed with the dogs. My mom is Alvin's very favorite person but when I got home I realized how much he missed me. He was brave enough to stay with the pack when they first greeted me and tried very hard to compete for my affection. He was more animated than I had ever seen him and once I could get the other two dogs, and even the cat to settle down, I was able to spend some time petting Alvin and assuring him that it would be a very long time before I was gone that long again. While I was gone I realized that in the nearly two years that I have had Alvin I don't think I have ever been away more than one night. I could be mistaken but I know that I have never been away for anything close to five nights. Alvin is always my little shadow but since coming home Alvin has stuck to me like glue and is partially why I have been trying to go out every day to his favorite spot to spend some alone time with him. Another big change for him came about in the past two nights. I have made my mom spend the past two nights at my house due to her leg difficulties and we have to share a bed. Gracie would scream her lungs out if I didn't let her on the bed with me and it wouldn't even dawn on Maddie that she would have to sleep somewhere else. With four of us in the bed there just isn't room for Alvin. I tried to give him his bedtime snack on the floor right before I got in bed but he didn't understand the change in routine and sat on the floor, while staring at us and muttering. It was so sad that my mom told me that I just had to make room for him and she does not like to have animals on the bed with her. I didn't put him on the bed because he gets nervous if there is confined space and he has subsequently fallen off the bed in the past. He was able to finally settle down and the second night went much more smoothly with me giving me a few extra treats. I don't think he was crying over being excluded because he doesn't mind sleeping on the floor but the change in routine and the thought that maybe he was missing out on a treat just about rocked his socks right off of him.
In the past I created a facebook page for my then foster dog, Gracie in hopes of finding her an adoptive home. As you all know, Gracie became mine and she now has 525 facebook friends. Yes, you read that correctly, a dog has far more fb friends than most human beings. Gracie is loved and adored by people across the globe and not only gets a lot of attention, but people actually send her gifts in the mail. She is a tremendously charismatic, well behaved, loving dog and apparently people can even spot that over the internet. The natural conclusion for most people would be that Gracie must be my favorite, but for me, my favorite is Mr. Alvin Stanley. I have an infinite amount of love for all three of my dogs but there's just something about Alvin! It works out well because Gracie is my cuddler which I love, and needs far more physical attention than the other two. She gets more of my time and attention than the other two combined. When I lost my cuddler, Timmie I tried too hard to turn Alvin into my cuddly dog and the attention was too much. Stevie doesn't want to be cuddled and what is most important to her is to always sleep at my feet and to have me home a lot, which I do. Gracie is very good to Alvin and so he has a dog friend and she helps him be braver. Gracie doesn't get jealous or interfere when I am spending time with Alvin and so it seems like everyone's emotional needs get met. I don't feel guilty naming Alvin as my favorite because Alvin so deserves to be the favorite of someone and he is the type of dog who could easily get lost in the pack. Gracie is adored by the world and gets a ton of my love and affection and so it's okay for Alvin to get to be the favorite.
This is terribly long and possibly quite boring. I had set out to write one paragraph about the belly scratches and got carried away. Until the next breakthrough when we will meet again......