This past Monday, highlighted by the Presidential Inauguration and the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, was truly a magical day at our house.
Peaches, our 3.5 year old therapy dog had a breakthrough. A year ago, we built a 3-season room off of our front door and added a dog door in the new room that leads out to the yard. Our two oldest dogs had used a dog door before, and we knew they’d take to it immediately. Our youngest dog, Buster, took a few months but eventually started using it on his own as well. And of course the cat uses it constantly. In, out. In, out. Sometimes with a mouse. Sometimes without. Peaches however never uses the door and we knew this would be the case. She is terrified of all inanimate objects that move on their own, particularly ones that give physical feedback like a dog door flap.
We tried lots of conditioning, coaxing, luring, etc. but ultimately unless you held the flap up for her and motioned her through, she wasn’t having any of it. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because it meant that I could leave the door to the new room open and the three dogs who use the door could do so freely while Peaches was stuck inside, unless I let her out. Because Peaches and Buster play rough and are not allowed in the yard unsupervised, this arrangement worked out perfectly in terms of convenience in a multi-dog household.
For the past year, the other dogs and cat have barreled in and out of the dog door after birds, squirrels, the wind and one another. And no matter how worked up Peaches is, she stops dead in her tracks when she hits the dog door and won’t so much as touch it, no matter how intense the motivating forces are on the other side of the door. So, sadly, she relegates herself to the porch room and barks out of frustration at the window. . . . until this past Monday.
The entire video takes place over the course of 10 minutes. I’ve edited it down to 3 minutes. In between the Peach-specific moments, the other dogs ran in and out of the dog door and played inside with Peaches as well, before running back out again. This is all normal behavior and has happened many times before. I was originally filming Charlie and Buster playing outside like they always do, until I heard the dog door click and then turned my focus to Peaches. Throughout the entire 10 minutes, I never said a word or interacted with her . . . until my ridiculous exclamation at the end.
If anything, this video should be a good example of the need to let individual dogs learn and develop on their own terms and in their own time. For those who will inevitably ask, no, she has not since used the door. Which is just fine with me since it means I don’t have to rethink my whole approach to supervising yard access. After she ran out of it, I did have her try coming back inside once, which she did manage to do.
Last week, Peaches stopped to admire the Martin Luther King Jr. display on the wall at the school where we visit. At the time I wondered what she was thinking about–breed discrimination and equality for all dog breeds, “pure” and mixed, I assumed. But clearly she was whispering to Dr. King, “I have a dream that one day I will go out the dog door.”