Poor little Oscar sustained a rather hideous injury on Labor Day. Excited by the arrival of one of his favorite guests, Oscar decided jumping on the fence was a good way to show his enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his paw slipped through the wiring and caught his caudal pad, partially tearing it from his wrist. Fortunately, the guest he was so excited about was my good friend Sara, a veterinarian, who always travels with a med kit. With some medications I had on hand and her bandages, we got him treated. Considering how much it hurt, he was amazingly cooperative.
The injury requires daily dressing changes. Remove the old bandage, clean, blow dry, and redress. He wasn’t impressed with the blow drier, so I had Peter rewarding him for staying still during the process. It became a nightly ritual. On the fifth day, I went into the bathroom (not the dogs’ favorite place because that’s where they get their baths), and got all my supplies ready. I opened the door and there was Oscar waiting in the hallway. I asked him if he’d like to come in, fully expecting him to slink off down the hall, but to my utter surprise, he walked in and lay down on the towel and propped his injured leg on the other towel.
The next night, he was in the living room when I got everything ready. I walked in and he looked up at me. I said, and these are my exact words, “Oscar, I need you in the bathroom”. He proceeded to get up, walk down the hall and into the bathroom. I stood there with my jaw sagging for a moment, and he popped his head out the door with a “well, aren’t you coming?” look.
Yes, dogs recognize and respond to patterns, and yes, they respond strongly to positive reinforcement, and yes, I’ve been working very hard to develop optimism in my dogs, but this just blew me away. All I can think is, “What an amazing, trusting, confident dog!” and “Thank the Good Dog the injury wasn’t sustained by D’Argo!”