Dog Observations: Memphis (Part 3)

In this final part of my Observations, I write about how Memphis’s behaviour changed from when I first met him, until the day he got adopted from the Dogs’ Refuge Home:

Over the space of the 10 sessions I enjoyed playing with Memphis, I observed how his behaviour changed. He went from being a fearful dog, with fear-aggression issues, to a beautifully affectionate dog, displaying high levels of intelligence. He stopped being startled, barking and growling at everything and everyone. His body language improved drastically – he went from skulking around or cowering in a corner, to bounding around excitedly whenever I approached his kennel door. He never once tried to slip out of his enclosure past me. Instead, he would politely stand away from the door, tail wagging enthusiastically, eyes big and hopeful. When I entered his run, he would immediately nose around me to find out what treats or toys I had for him. Once I accidentally left the zip on my treats pouch open, and Memphis promptly “robbed” me blind of treats. I noticed that when confronted with the choice of squeaky toy or treats, Memphis always chose the squeaky toy first.

Memphis also stopped barking at strangers standing outside his run. In fact, he was often so enamoured with his squeaky games of fetch that he was often able to completely ignore everything that was happening around him. I taught him how to Sit, Give Paw, Lie Down, Roll Over and Wait, but I suspect he already knew those tricks and our play sessions only served as practice reminders. Again, when there was a squeaky toy at hand, he would often ignore cues to perform those parlour tricks, preferring to “kill” the squeak first, and only then would he turn his attention to trick or treat. He certainly knew how to prioritise!

You may remember earlier I mentioned Memphis “eyeballing” and giving the “whale eye”. I attended a Training session on dog body language and micro expressions at the Refuge, and the Trainer had used Memphis as an example. However, the more time I spent with Memphis, the more I’m convinced that his “eyeballing” and “whale eye” is actually part of his physiognomy…his eye sockets are just built that way, so that no matter what he was looking at, or what his mood, the whites of his eyes would always show, making him look soulful.

One incident with Memphis will remain forever etched in my mind. It was the day he was adopted. That morning, when I went to see him, he didn’t want to play fetch like he normally did. Instead, he seemed very content to just lie down on his bed with his head in my lap, and let me rub his tummy. He would glance up now and then and lick my face. I believed his doggy senses may have picked up something was afoot, and he just wanted cuddles to make the most of what time we had left together.

I missed seeing Memphis leaving the Refuge with his new furever family. But they have shared photos of his new life with them on the Refuge’s Facebook page. Memphis is very much loved by his new family. He goes to the dog beach, he loves the park, he’s made many new friends. His new “dad” even has Memphis’ name tattooed on his arm. He looks happy and well-adjusted, a far cry from the frightened dog not so many months ago.

I just wonder if they’ve discovered what he’s like with a squeaky toy. 

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