The Training of Scarlett

Since she arrived, Scarlett has virtually always been in the company of McKinley. She looks to her as the alpha female who will tell her what to do next from walking to sniffing to

Scarlett looks to McKinley to tell her when it is safe 

splashing in puddles. In other words, in situations large and small she often falls back for her leader to show the way.


Today has been the third time – that’s right, only the third time in two months – that she’s gone on a short walk without her alpha. The first two times had elements of a disaster film involving moments of stark terror and attempts to flee the great destroyer of the world – a squirrel and a teacup size pooch.

McKinley hates rain with a purple passion. Scarlett not so much. Although it was a two-foot rain, McKinley said, thanks but no thanks. Scarlett and I stepped out into the dewy day and walked to the end of the walkway in front of the house, turned left and heard the rumble and clank of the truck picking up the dumpster. I was not hoping for another disaster film ending so going home PDQ was on my agenda. She was all tensed up and looked for an exit. And when she exits it involves fighting to get out of her harness so she can run for her life.

Just then a neighbor who adores dogs walked up and Scarlett started searching for McKinley. Ugh! Someone’s coming. What do I do?

It’s not like she’s never seen  our neighbor before. But Scarlett depends on McKinley to show her the right companion dog behavior. Is this a good person? A bad person? Will I get hurt?  She cowered behind me – too distressed by a woman in close proximity to care about a banging dumpster.

In the end, she sniffed the back of our neighbor’s hand and untucked her tail from between her legs. It didn’t curl over her back, but she wasn’t in total shutdown mode.

We are so blessed to have compassionate and loving neighbors who understand how damaged Scarlett has been and give her room to be afraid and opportunities to not be afraid. No matter what her choice she’s always accepted for who she is. She has no opportunity to be a “bad dog” or do the “wrong thing.”

Once our neighbor was gone Scarlett double-timed it back to the house, all thoughts of licking rain from new grass gone.  Home. Safe. McKinley. Alpha. Mom’s sock*. My bed. Pillow. Blanket. Safe. Home. 

* She is in love now – she keeps one or two of my not yet washed socks in her bed. Sometimes she carries one with her.

The Training of Scarlett

2 thoughts on “The Training of Scarlett

  1. My sister sees a lot of progress. So do I. It is only two months since she’s been here. Yesterday Scarlett gave her Auntie AJ a love lick. Today she was afraid of her when she moved unexpectedly. It is all a process. The more comfortable she feels, the less new “stuff” she has to deal with the better. Ideally, she would live in a snow globe.

    I wish people understood how much harm they do when they abuse and neglect. I know I’m singing to the choir there, Cupcake.


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