I was still new to the program when I met Nilly for the first time and she was not a happy puppy. I can understand why. She was in a dog trap, in a car, around people who she didn't trust and in a very strange place. One of the few people who work to trap around the area had Nilly in a large dog trap. It was evident from the start that Nilly wasn't going to let us put a leash on her to get her out of the trap. Nor was she going to cooperate with anything we were going to attempt to do. After three pain staking hours of maneuvering the trap into the puppy enclosure, numerous bites/snarls/snaps and getting the trap lined up to the kennel door (we couldn't get it into the kennel), Nilly begrudgingly left the sanctity of the trap. We thought it would be smooth sailing from there - we were wrong. Very wrong. That was just the beginning. That pack of band aids wouldn't be the only first aid I would needed courtesy of Nilly.
For the first few weeks, Nilly refused to eat. We tried every dry food we had at the shelter, and then we tried all the wet foods. We also went out and bought a few different sorts to see what tempted her. We tried different treats, hot dogs, cat food - the list goes on. Still nothing. She had to have been eating something, she wouldn't have survived. So we would leave the food bowls full of various things in her kennel over night and hope that she felt comfortable enough to eat. I had taken to sitting with Nilly (outside her kennel) every day just to see if I could convince her to have something to eat. It wasn't until mid December that I had decided to get myself McDonald's on my way into work. The lady at window had given me two hash browns instead of the one I ordered. So as I was sitting there talking to Nilly with my McDonald's - I thought "why not?" and I asked Nilly if she would like some hash brown. I swear I saw the ears perk up. Up until that point she would usually just ignore me and lie in the corner. If you went into her kennel she would growl and start pacing nervously. Today, I felt brave. I went in. Hash brown at the ready - I wanted her to know that I came in peace. I put the hash brown in her food bowl and left the kennel. Sure enough, she ate it. That was when I came to the realization that she probably didn't know what dog food was. She had lived in the wild for all her life. So, for many weeks following that day I would stop at McDonald's on my way to work and pick up breakfast for Nilly. Slowly, we introduced the dry and wet mix into her diet and she hasn't looked back. My bank account thanks her.
Not much changed over the following month, although she had started to eat regularly and had started to allow kennel cleaners in to the kennel - she wouldn't go near them or let them touch her. But they were allowed in with no problems. Combine that with the new diet - I considered that a win.
It became noticeable over the following weeks that we need to get some tick prevention on her. However, this seemed like an impossible task. She was covered; you could see them all over her. So we came up with this great plan to sedate her - it was a day that the Spay/Neuter clinic was running. So the plan was, the vet would sedate her early (with a pill treat) and I would come get them when she was down. That way they could de-tick, put flea/tick prevention on her and possibly spay her. About twenty minutes later, the Vet Tech came over to me and let me know that there was a slight problem. She wasn't taking any treats. She wouldn't take the tranquilizer. So I loaded up with every treat I could find and the tranquilizer and headed into her kennel. I put my load on the floor and took a seat. Nilly sat in the corner watching me - So one by one I tried every sort of treat I had. She had sniffed a few but had stoically rejected everything I had. I noticed that in my haste to gather treats (we only had a small window to get on the operating table) I had grabbed a tin of "Special Kitty" wet food. So I figured, why not. I opened it up, tapped a little onto the ground and buried the little pill. After moving away and mentally giving up - Nilly decided it smelt different and went to investigate. The vet had made an approximation on Nilly's weight - for the tranquilizer dose - and had told me that it would take about thirty minutes for it to take effect. After raising my head from my hands I noticed that the "Special Kitty" was gone and Nilly was licking her lips. Success. I left Nilly and let the Vet and Tech know that she had eaten it. I would check on her in half an hour and let them know. This was around 11:00am.
My day went like this - 12:00pm Nilly is still awake. 12:30pm Nilly is still awake. 1:00pm Nilly is still awake. 1:30pm Nilly is still awake. 2:00pm Nilly is still awake. 2:30pm Nilly is still awake. 3:00pm Nilly is still awake. 3:30pm Nilly is still awake. 4:00pm Nilly is still awake. 4:30pm Nilly is still awake. 5:00pm Nilly is still awake. 5:30pm Nilly is still awake. 6:00pm Nilly is tired. 6:30pm Nilly is tired. 7:00pm Nilly is awake. What is this dog made of? There went that plan.
The weeks went by......she got into a routine. The dog walkers would give her treats and she would bark at them. Although, she did start licking people's hands through the fence of her kennel. Still, she never left her kennel.
I used to sit with her everyday. I would go into her kennel and just relax - even if it was just to check emails on my phone. The first few days she hated it and wouldn't settle down. By the end, she just lay down next to me. I would talk to her - tell her about my day or what was going on, I honestly thought she was listening.
On the 21st of May, 2013 we were talking about Nilly and what the plan of attack was. Someone suggested that we just drag her out of the kennel. It wasn't a life living in a kennel, barking at people that walk by. She deserved more. So, I said - "Ok. I'll do it". I finished my work for the day, grabbed my new leash (which I loved and was so proud of - it was bright pink) and went into the kennel. I did not realize what I was getting into - I should have remembered how stubborn this girl was. I also should not have used my new pink leash. All I will say is that it became a casualty of the battle of wills.
Below is daily chapter of what we achieved and how Nilly is doing. Nilly has become a very important part of my life - those that know me well, know that I am stubborn and very rarely give up on anything. So working with Nilly has been a battle of the stubborn. This is also a learning curve for me. I have made it my mission to read, Google, research and seek out as much information as possible to help guide Nilly into the world of the friendly dogs. I have bugged all of my trainer friends and dog rescuer resources in the hope that I can help Nilly and do what is needed and what is best for her.
|Day 2 - Exploring the Kennels|
5/22 Day 2 "The World": We had an unbelievable accomplishment today. Nilly left her kennel after months ....she was very happy ....although got a little overcome by the world at the end. She walked straight out the door after only about thirty minutes of trying to get the leash on her. I let her explore the small kennel area. Then she wanted to go outside. So we did. I'm so proud of her. Once we were outside both kennel doors - I let her find somewhere she felt safe so we could just sit and watch the world. This was her first "place". She was nervous, but I could see her nose going crazy. After about fifteen minutes it was clear that she had had enough. So we walked straight inside and back into her kennel. She let me take the leash off with minimal stress - she does still try to bite when you get too close. Let's see how tomorrow goes.
|Day 2 - Outside for the first time|
|Day 2 - Getting the Leash On.|
|Day 2 - Finding her "place"|
|Day 3 - Exploring the Kennel Area|
|Day 3 - Getting more Confident|
|Day 3 - My Cheeky Girl.|
|Day 6 - Nilly Gets Stuck|
|Day 7 - Sitting Calmly Beside Me for her Vaccination!|
5/30 Day 7 "Vaccinations": Today was a very intense day for both of us, however the final outcome was success. Nilly is officially microchipped and vaccinated Score one to Sass. I have been very concerned with having her in the shelter unvaccinated. There are so many things that go through a shelter with as many animals as we have. I really just wanted to get her vaccinated. So we were sitting on our usually spot on the stairs - you should see them many times in the pictures. And she let me touch her a lot more than usual. As I was sitting there I was talking to the Rhea and I mentioned that maybe she would let me vaccinate her. So Rhea ran off to grab me what I needed. The first shot was super easy, Nilly was a rock star. She just let me do it - she looked at what I was doing and we were done. The second was a little more stressful, but still very easy. So, we thought - why not. Let's try for the microchip. THAT, was not as easy - but in the end she let me do it. I was over the moon happy. She is just coming along so fast.
5/31 Day 8 "Seeing The World": After her vaccination day, I decided to just to let her have fun and be a dog. She controlled where she went and what we did. The only thing she couldn't control was if I went with her - which I did.
|Day 9 - Exploring|
|Day 9 - Nilly's Favorite Fence|
6/2 Day 10 "Photo Day": Nilly wasn't feeling as confident today, everyone has rough days so I didn't push her hard. She was still feeling cheeky though. We went through our usual routine of entering and exiting the kennel a couple of times. Then we sat on the stairs before leaving the small kennel area. There was a volunteer photographer at the shelter and as we were sitting outside took a few snaps of Miss Nilly. She is certainly a very photogenic girl. She was interested in the camera and what they were doing - but wouldn't get too close.
|Day 10 - Photo Day|
|Day 10 - Photo Day|
|Day 12 - The Corner of the Grounds|
|Day 15 - Relaxing|
|Day 15 - Good Leash Walking|
6/21 Day 17 "The New Bush": Nilly found a new bush today. It was about three blocks down away from the shelter. Coming out of the kennel was rougher today, but once she got past the corner she walked calmly beside me down the middle of the driveway. Completely away from the fence (a first for her). She calmly walked beside me across the road and even when a massive truck went past. I love this girl so much - I'm so happy she trusts me. I am even allowed to touch her right side. She is still hesitant about the top of the head. She even gave me a kiss on the nose today.
|Day 19 - Her Search|
|Day 19 - A New Wall|
|Day 20 - The Car & The "Bling"|
|Day 20 - Meeting Bernie|
|Day 22 - A New Walk|
|Day 23 - A New Friend|
|Day 23 - Bug Attack|
Her guarded nature lended itself well to her personal security when she was on her own but now she's learning to trust and depend on someone else for that.
With years of habits that have worked for her under her belt, it will take a good amount time, effort and love to get past the walls that she has put up for herself. Not impossible by any means but definitely not for the first time dog owner or an individual who cannot make a substantial commitment to do what is necessary to connect with this dog.”
Opinion of an observer (Montana):
|Day 25 - The New Route|
|Day 25 - New rules.|
|Day 26 - "Place"|
|Day 26 - The Water Bowl|
|Day 26 - Happy Car Girl|
|Day 26 - Meeting the Neighbors|
8/3 Day 27 "The Reunion": I was so happy to see her and I walked up to her kennel with my usual happy cheery calling of "Nilly Nilly". She run straight up to the gate with her happy smile and tail wagging. I walked into her kennel and she was a little hesitant but when I crouched down she came right over and sat down beside me and gave me an elbow lick. If that isn't a Nilly hello, then I don't know what is. Her training was a little rusty, but she picked it up super fast. We had the tough box out again and she was jumping up and sitting like a pro. The car exercise was a little less smooth, but by the end she was back to the standard of the last time I saw her. We even tried her in another car, just to make sure she wasn't associating it with only my car. She jumped into the back seat and peaked over the SUV's seats to where D was packing up. Smart girl. But she went in and out five times with no panic or concerns. Yay, go Nilly. D also mentioned to me that they had attempted to bathe her. Something which she has never been comfortable with. Water is one of the things I have been working on desensitizing her to - like having someone touch her feet.
8/5 Day 28 "Agility Course" : So today I went to the shelter with a plan. I wanted to challenge Nilly. She has mastered "Place" and "Car". She is still working on sit, but I'm not rushing that one as she can be sensitive to being touched on her rear. I wanted something that would challenge and tire her out. So I came up with an obstacle course. She is a super fit dog and I feel like she needs to burn some energy. So I integrated the stuff we have worked on but making the starting position in the car with the water bowl by the door. She then had to leave the car and head to the tough box. From there we would walk a certain path that made her jump up on walls, walk on thin edges and jump on and off things in quick succession. This would also allow me to start working on two more key words. "Up/On" and "Off". The first time she was confused and resisted a little. Just before the mid-way point there is a little set of stairs, something she doesn't like doing, which she had to go up to the top alone and back down. At the turn around point there is a section where I would almost run her like you would when breaking a horse. I had it so that to complete the circle she had to jump up on a four foot high wall. I made her do three to four circles. On the way back, we would do the same things but backwards - she is very set on her routine, so this is a little tricky for her. But after we did the course six times she was a pro. And she was tired. Score 1 to Sass. She went into her kennel, had a big drink and flopped on her bed. I felt like it was a great day and was super proud of her.
|My one and only Nilly snuggle|
|Nilly being prepped for surgery!|
|She made friends with Tiger while she woke up|
|Sometimes you just have a rough day.|
|We decided we wanted to let her wake up in her kennel.|
For the weeks following her surgery, she continued to get better and better with people. I was able to watch her with and her reaction with D one afternoon and it was amazing to watch how excited she was to see her. She jumped up on D and generally wanted to behave like a dog who loves someone. It was one of the best moments of my career at the Oahu SPCA.
8/29 "The Goodbye": This is one of my saddest days. I had to say goodbye to Miss Nilly. My pack and I had a journey to the Netherlands for my husbands work. So I had to make the walk into her kennel which I knew would be my last. I called out in my usual way - Nil Nil Nilly - and she gave me her usual three bark and came running to the front of the kennel. I went into her kennel and knelt down and she came up beside me. I got something I was hoping for - a cheek kiss. I had only had one in my entire life with Nilly. I told her that I had to leave and that she had to take care of everyone here and not let Bebe (her neighbor) teach her anymore bad habits. As I stood she tried to leave with me but I said no and she back back. I will miss this amazing girl. She has taught me more than any animal ever has. My only hope is that someone will give this girl a chance and that they will give her as much as she has given me.
And that is the end of my chapter with Miss Nilly. She will always be my "Feral Princess"!