03 August 2018
I have been waiting for this month to post this update as now we have had Rita for over six months. In summary, our life has predictably changed and now most things that happen need consideration outside of just ourselves which takes a little getting used to. Only the other day we passed a local music festival poster and we both looked at each other and thought the same thing “that looks good, we could go” and then both shouted out in unison “Rita!” the new buzz word for ‘maybe not’!! Joking aside though, the benefits do out weigh the restrictions and we have all come on a long journey in mutual appreciation since that memory milestone day when we left Sao Bras with Rita in our ownership.
A typical Rita pose on her corner of the sofa.
I must admit one of the first major adjustments we had to make was understanding and attending a dog’s toilet rituals. Being new to dog ownership we had no real idea of when she wanted to go as she gave us very few signs, how long was too long? At times maybe I worried too much, especially during the night as I would lie in bed thinking that Rita might need to go to the toilet and there has been nights during the first few months that I have got up and taken her out in the early hours for her typically to do ‘nothing’ but then at least I can sleep through knowing that I have given her yet another chance to go to the loo even at the cost of her peaceful slumber. Thankfully those days have past now as we all learn each other patterns and I imagine that this will be a continuous process.
Tucked up for the night
The next thing was food, initially we really struggled to get Rita to eat, which we thought was incredible as we were under the belief that dogs are ruled by their stomachs. This lasted maybe a month, whilst we were still on the road and we don’t know what made her turn the corner but one day it seemed that was just eating normally from her bowl instead on us taking her to the bowl or even moving it to her in hope that she would start eating, which invariability she would do after a little time. Moving on to today, she is a dog completely governed by her appetite as she just loves her food, so much so we have limited her to her correct portion size and now she has dropped from 13.5 Kg to a really athletic and fit looking 13.2kg. To put it short, Rita has very little trouble eating now and only yesterday she managed to swipe a chopped Saucisson Sec (it was French week in Lidl last week!!) from our table top which she managed to devour half of in the few minutes our backs were turned.
Rita on her morning beach walk
There has been several other more psychological phases to her adjustment to spending time with us, firstly she had to get over the shock over leaving her home with Maria and Adrian (www.2ndhand4foooters.com) which is documented earlier in the year and after that she had to realise that she does not have a fixed home but instead learning that the motorhome and us are her constant. She managed this too, to our relief, so we were shocked once we landed on the East Sussex coast where we would live and work for the summer months that she found this to be an obstacle. We were obviously unsure of the problem, but what ever she was experiencing left her really anxious and stressed as she would bark constantly searching for us as we worked around the campsite grounds. We tried leaving her outside and inside the motorhome to no avail and at this point with a little internet searching we educated ourselves about dog separation anxiety. Rita was definitely showing all the symptoms so much so that during one her chewing frenzies she managed to call the ‘out of hours’ emergency phone which surprised all the campsite staff as we could not see anybody outside the office door ringing the bell only to find later a very molested phone hand set inside our van! So after losing one TV remote control, a baseball cap and pair of my favourite flip flops we decided to build a space for Rita outside of the van in the hope that she would relax a little as she would be able to see us out and about showing her we were not leaving her. It worked, thankfully, and she completely changed almost overnight, happy with her space and her house. She does not even go to the toilet in her space, meaning that it is part of her ‘home’. Sure, she is still too pleased to see us when we return back to the van and we are now even ignoring her on purpose for the first 5 minutes so she understands what we expect from her, and that is a ‘calm’ dog, instead of celebrating her wildness, running in circles and jumping up as fun as it might have been.
Rita’s house under construction
The finished article. Rita has a habit though of removing her padded bed!
So overall I think the threesome is doing very well from all angles considering our story. Rita is definitely much more confident about all aspects of life: she really enjoys other dogs and will always choose play first over all other responses, she is getting braver with strange people remaining slightly wary but not cowering as she would. Furthermore, above all, she has stayed the perfectly behaved dog coming back when she is called, sitting down when required and generally having a happy and kind disposition even with those ‘sempre triste’ Portuguese eyes that she has. Sharon and I often comment that Rita makes us look like accomplished dog owners as she is so well behaved and we chuckle knowing that for the most part that is all due to her and we also remark that we are really fortunate as we really did not know what we could have been getting into. People say when they hear Rita’s story that she has really fallen on her paws with her new life but we know deep down that we are the lucky ones!!
An update from Rita’s perspective:
“Dear oh dear, these two are really funny. They keep talking to me and giving me fuss all the time which to be honest is really nice. What I am struggling with though is the food, it is wheat free happy clapping health food and the same every day in the same portion sizes, completely boring. In my past life, if I fancied a little piri piri chicken I would just pop down to the bins at the back of ‘Frango Louco’, sometimes I fancied seafood so I would go and visit the nice lady who cleaned the kitchens at the local Marisqueira and flash her my oh so lonely sad eyes. It was only the other day though that I let my appetite get the better of me as I took a small nibble from a foreign looking sausage that they left out for a few moments whilst they watered their outside plants. I thought I had got away with it but I was unfortunately caught in the act and was banished to my bed for the next half hour and they would not even look or speak to me.
The other thing that has changed is the toilet business, they keep picking the damn stuff up and placing it in little bags and then they proceed to carry it around with them. How would you feel if you did your business and then somebody placed it in a bag for the whole world to see? It is so demeaning. I used to be able to go anywhere with complete dignity and decorum, this new world is weird.
On a walk over Beachy Head, I get to go to some amazing places
The next stumbling block that I ask myself about is where are all my free wandering doggie pals? Oh we used to have some laughs, me and Roberta, barking at the horses or teasing that big grumpy Serra running free most of the time. Now most the dogs I run into are tethered with a rope type thing being held back by their ‘human’. As to the dogs I do see running free on the nearby beach they don’t seem too interested in old fashioned play, instead preferring to chase an inane round object that is thrown in one direction. Even my relativity sensible humans tried that with me, they waved this yellow round thing in front of my nose and then hauled it down the beach I just shook my head and gave them that look “I thought you knew me better, do you really believe I think that is a rabbit?” I just sat down, and then one of them even threw the object and chased after it themselves as some sort of demonstration, boy that was funny!!!! To be fair though to my two uprights, they are quite relaxed and at all times possible I am off the lead thing and I have learnt that I keep my freedom if I come back when called and in turn they have learned not to keep shouting my name out too much as I can be trusted you know.
Finally, I think I am getting used to this new life. It seems varied and I see a lot of new places, meet new people and enjoy a safe nights sleep on my corner of the sofa. I have regular exercise and get to run free several times a day in the near by field and beach and get the chance to meet lots of other dogs. And even though I complain about the food, at least it is regular even if bland so all in all ‘tudo bem’.”
One day I am going to catch a sea gull, I keep practising every morning.