I am in shock.
Last night I made myself a lovely T-bone steak for dinner. While I cooked it I also had the undivided attention of my adopted Norwegian Elkhound, Ole. Sofia, my other dog, has always respected my food and would never dream of counter surfing...until Ole taught her how to do it.Yes, at age 13 Sofia finally learned to counter surf. Thanks, Ole.
I carried my dinner plate upstairs, put it on the TV tray and settled down to enjoy some TV and some food. Of course Ole was right there, watching, watching, watching...
When Ole first came to live with me, what was it? In 2009? Anyway, it was years ago. When he first came to live with me he pulled an Elkhound Maneuver I just had to admire. It was the same situation but it was a hamburger patty instead of a steak, and some vegetables. I was upstairs, watching TV, eating dinner, when Ole suddenly jumped up, barked very loudly, and then thundered down the stairs. THERE IS SOMETHING OUT THERE, QUICK, GO LOOK, he said. So Sofia and I jumped up, ran downstairs to look out the front door and Ole ran back up the stairs and ate my dinner.
I never let him pull that one again, though he did try! I realized I would never be safe from his marauding so I built habits that included putting any and all food very high up, out of elkhound reach.
But we all make mistakes. Last night I had to use the bathroom, which is downstairs. I left my plate upstairs and while downstairs got sidetracked onto the interenet. For an hour. Or more.
Starting to feel hungry again and knowing I hadn't finished quite all of the steak, I went into the kitchen to my usual "safe" place to get my plate and realized, horrified, that I'd left it upstairs, well within reach of Ole Ginsu Mouth! A steak, and what was worse, a cooked, delicious, dangerously splintery BONE.
Sick and with visions of hours at the e-vet and a huge vet bill in my head, I ran up the twisty stairs to find Ole sitting on his bed, licking his lips nervously.
I scanned the floor for a super clean plate. No plate. I looked at Ole. He licked his lips again. I lifted my eyes to the TV tray.....and there was my plate, steak intact, UNTOUCHED and even unLICKED!
I checked him over. Was he ill? Cold nose, just a little nervous...WOW! He chose not to eat my food! And such high-value, yummy food that I'll say it again, I'm in shock!
It has been years, as I said before, since I adopted Ole. He was in the dog pound down in Oregon and we have no idea what his life must have been before I got him. He's sweet, submissive (but has elkhound stubborness if you train incorrectly, no force methods work beautifully, force methods fail), but a little head shy. And smart, smart, smart. Plus I suspect was raised and held in a crate most of his life, because he will "hold it" for twelve hours at a time.
Whatever he's been through, it's taken him this long to finally adopt ME. By not eating my food he told me, clearly, "I respect you. You are my leader." Don't get me wrong, he's been my dog all along, but it has been a long road to this day, where he has decided that we belong together. There has been a subtle shift in his attitude over the last several months. He looks me in the eyes more, he lets me kiss him on the nose (normally he averts his head and I don't push it).
Not that I'm ever going to assume he won't eat my food. He IS an elkhound, after all. But the point is taken: Ole has decided that I am really his person.
For all of you who have adopted dogs as adults: you never know how long it will take for a dog to heal from whatever happened to them before. If it were a person, you wouldn't expect him or her to become psychologically healthy after say, six months, if he/she had gone through some kind of severe abuse or neglect, would you? I can say with total surety that child abuse is the "gift" that keeps on giving. It has affected my entire life.
I'm so glad that Ole has been able to feel safe with me.
And yes, he got little bits of steak to eat last night as a reward! Good dog, Ole!