Let Bosco Be Bosco

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Sorry we’ve been gone so long. All this walking takes up a lot of time and energy!

And then there’s the post-walk recovery napping. And I’m not going to give you the percentage breakdown of how much time we spend on each.

So… When we last saw our hero, Bosco was being dragged around his neighborhood by an evil person, intent on destroying his cuddly layer of fat. Bosco has stoically submitted to the evil master plan, going as far as losing 5 pounds, just to give the illusion of compliance.

According to my Fitbit stats, I’ve walked 330 miles in a little more than 2 months. I think Bosco’s done at least half of that. I doubt this dog walked that much in his whole life leading up to it. Combined.

And he HATES it. He hates the noises, he hates the distance, and he hates getting hot and panty. And this got me thinking….

What if …. Bosco were to get a sister? Someone who could help him understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Who could show him how to let loose and have fun. Someone who could take some of the walking duties off of his plate.

I remembered stories from his shelter days, of dogs that he enjoyed being with, and I’d heard how he flirted with the girls when he was at his hotel. So I pondered it for a while.

And one day, a sweet face showed up in my Facebook feed, and a few days later I saw it again on Twitter. She was a big, good-looking girl who looked just like Bosco, except she was white, with a big brown spot on her head. She looked so sweet, and I thought maybe Bosco would like to be with somebody just like him. Of course she was at BARC in Brooklyn.

So I arranged a visit with Vinnie and Jay, and Robyn and Bosco and I headed off on a big road trip. Robyn and I gabbed the whole time, and Bosco farted up the car.

When we got there, Vinny and Jay were waiting with the dog on the sidewalk. How did that go? Well…….. The first thing she did was mount Bosco. We can safely say that set the tone. I really think she’s an unpolished gem, but Bosco haaaaaaaaaaaaaated her. He went so far as to growl. We all talked for a while, and my three friends were of the same opinion – this was not the dog for Bosco.

Vinny spelled it out for me – Bosco just wanted to be with me. And he didn’t want to share. Robyn and I talked it through over Asian food, while Bosco flirted with strangers. She helped me understand that if that particular dog was added to our household, it would completely destroy every step Bosco has made in building his confidence.

And I’d told Bosco he had the deciding vote. And that vote was no.

So no it was. I’ll be honest and admit that I was more than a little sad about it. I wasn’t ready to rule out future roommates though, so I thought the next step would be a little more socialization with other dogs to see if he was opposed to all dogs, or just that one.

Last week Bosco and I went to visit a friend and her dog. I wanted to learn how Bosco would be with a more passive dog, who he’s met before.

Bosco taught me something totally different.

He interacted with the other dog the same way teenagers with cellphones interact. They were both there, both fine with each other, but beyond that, could care less. But…..

My friend has had some horrible changes in her life, and her world is upside down. Bosco was drawn to her. And during this visit, which was full of emotional conversations, he was at her feet, or sitting two inches away. He requested a tummy rub, and fell asleep while she rubbed him.

You might already have picked up on this, but – Bosco doesn’t go out of his way to interact with other people. This is way out of character.

I felt like he was saying to her “I know exactly how you feel. It’s really scary. Let’s just be together and everything will be okay.”

So Bosco may not want another dog in his life. So what. He knows what’s important.

Baby Steps

Bosco is broken.

Or so he claims.

Bosco: It’s an absolute fact just look at me I can’t even lift my head I’m ruined.

photo 5Long story short – my company developed a wellness program that’s pretty cool. Check it out at mindful.sodexo.com.   A couple of weeks ago, I joined an activity group that the office set up.   I’ll be honest – the free Fitbit was quite the incentive. All I have to do is try to walk 10,000 steps every day.

That doesn’t seem like much at all – unless you have a desk job. And all day long, while I’m not walking, there’s this big guy sleeping on my sofa. And he’s grown a bit too soft and cuddly.

photo 1Bosco: In dog culture you’re supposed to have extra padding because it means you have a good house and good food and surely you want everyone to see me and know that I have that because it also means you’re a good person see there’s something in it for you too and it’s not so bad see I haven’t even eaten this snack so it’s not like I have a problem.

Yeah. Anyway….

To get my steps in, I need to take a couple of lengthy walks every day. See where this is headed? I thought this would be great for both of us. Time together, exploration, socialization, etc. We do not, however have a unanimous decision on this approach.

photo 1Bosco: A walk means I go outside and turn left and then I walk halfway up the block to do my thing and turn around and go back inside to eat a snack and go back to bed and besides that sidewalk is very cold in the morning and doing anything else would seriously cut into my nap time and a great way to spend time together is sitting on the sofa while you rub my ears.

We’ve been walking every night when I get home from work, usually around 7. The distance varies – it’s a minimum of 8 blocks, but I have to hit 10,000 steps by the end of it.

photo 5Bosco: I have been very busy snoring all day and I am worn out and I don’t want to walk around in the middle of the night 7:30 is my bedtime and this makes me late for nite nite and then I’m too tired to go up the stairs to my bed so I have to nap on the floor first and it just throws my whole schedule off.

This past week I added a morning walk. We crawl out at 6, and do anywhere from 8 to 10 blocks. Nothing major, just enough for Bosco to do what he needs to do, and prevent any “using the laundry room as a bathroom” incidents while I’m gone.

photo 2Bosco: I don’t know who’s doing that in the laundry room I’m upstairs sleeping the whole time and I sleep very soundly it must be the mailman and 6 am is still nite nite unless I’m hungry and then I want you to get up right away.

I do have an ulterior motive to our activity. This horrendous winter limited Bosco’s interaction with the outside world. He’s made great gains in his confidence when he’s safe inside the house. But he lost ground about being outside, seeing different people and encountering unexpected events. Walking more, and in unfamiliar places will help him understand that there’s still nothing to be afraid of when he’s outside.

photo 2Bosco: For years I walked two blocks to the pier and looked at the water and then walked back and took a nap I don’t see why there needs to be more I bet you don’t drive to work taking longer and different routes every day do you I thought not I’m gonna trail along behind you and act all grumpy and when people laugh at us it really hurts my self esteem.

In the last two weeks, I’ve logged about 50 miles of walking, and a little over half of it has been with Bosco. He is cooperative, but not happy. Yesterday we took a long walk in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Later that night, I got cold and put on a hoodie. Bosco interpreted that as an indication that we were going for a third walk. He ran upstairs to hide.

Bosco: I may not not know much about the world but I’m not stupid.

But we’re doing good. We’re starting slow, and taking a lot of breaks. Bosco gets very happy when we stop, and drinks directly from my water bottle, which I find both hilarious and disgusting. He still pesters me to go for a walk, and soon he will get used to the distances and be enthusiastic for the whole walk.

photo 3Bosco: Maybe we can get in the car and drive around and I can look at things that way and eat snacks without having to walk at the same time and we can circle the block where the cute cocker spaniel is and I can put my head out the window and say hey baby and impress her that I have a chauffeur.

 

Babbling Bosco

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Bosco’s talking!

It took 19 months for him to have an opinion strong enough to verbalize.

Normally he communicates with snorts and huffs and every so often a very soft sound that sounds like “berf.”

But a week or so ago, he had something to say, which was:

“I like pork.”

It all came about when I was eating stir-fry pork. Bosco thought it smelled good, and dropped some hints that he’d like to taste it.  He put his head in my lap and  stared up at me with huuuuuge eyes. Really subtle. Then I offered him a vegetable. He eagerly reached for it – then realized that wasn’t what he wanted. He sniffed again, curled his lip, and shook his head.

Being a jerk, I laughed at him. And then he spoke up, and ran around in little circles.

A few days later, we had the same scene – but this time it was grilled chicken. After submitting his request, Bosco accepted that there would be no chicken for him, and went off to watch from a distance. Then I called him over and gave him a piece. This is a loose translation of what he had to say:

“Yay it’s chicken I’m eating chicken and it tastes soooo good and I’m so happy I’m going to run around the room and yell because I’m eating chicken and it tastes so good and this is the best day of my life because I had chicken.”

Or something like that.  Something so wonderful happened to him that he finally forgot himself and all his anxieties and was a big happy dog. A one inch piece of chicken did all that.

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In the last few months, he’s been seeking affection, asking to be petted, and to have his ears rubbed.  He doesn’t get as nervous when I cuddle the stuffing out of him, and seems slightly disappointed when it stops. But …. then there’s the smooching. He’s so cute, and so tall, and I love to plant a big kiss on the top of his head. He haaaaates the smooching because it comes with sound effects. Yesterday I smooched at him from across the room.  He ran backwards and “berfed” at me, wagged his tail, then ran forward. Repeat repeat repeat. He wanted me to know that it would be more fun to run around the house than smooch.

I was eating trail mix yesterday, and Bosco wanted some. He was unconcerned that everything in trail mix is bad for dogs.  He made his eyes 600 times their normal size, and looked from me to the container, and back again – After I’d put it away, he kept it up for another hour.

Let’s just say this- I’m pretty thick sometimes. He wasn’t telling me he wanted nuts and raisins. He. Had. To. Go. And I wasn’t getting it. So he resorted to the classic way to get my attention.  He put himself at eye level, reached out with a big ol’ paw, and smacked me.

Message received!

Bosco Words

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Let’s talk about communication.  Bosco and I are working on how to better understand each other.

It’s been a challenge. Every dog I’ve known has been verbal about their desires.  Especially my beagle, who would stand in front of me and yell when he perceived an insult to his dignity.  But not Bosco. He doesn’t make noise. Unless you count snores. And farts.

We have a common language on the essentials, thanks to school.  And some words came very quickly. Never any confusion about what “supper” means. “Cheese” came pretty fast too.

Just before the weather got awful, we figured out what “go outside” and “go potty” means.  This is such a relief. Before this clicked, Bosco could only poop on a leash. And an awful lot of my neighbors don’t shovel their sidewalks, which left us walking an icy route, in the dark, in single digit temperatures.  In other words, a disaster waiting to happen.

And I figured out how he tells me he has to go out. He realized that I’m pretty thick, and pacing and looking at me didn’t get through. Now he just puts his big face about 1/4″ from mine and stares at me.

Now Bosco’s not exactly thrilled that he’s getting his delicate parts cold, but he just needs perspective.  I tell him he looks strong and brave as he hikes across the snowy yard. He gives me a big-eyed look that says “I don’t like this.” On really cold days I think it means “$%*^ you.”

We had a very cute moment this weekend when I came home from the post office with a box full of stuff for him.  It was big and smelled like the outside world, so he was curious. When I told him, before I opened it, that everything in it was Bosco’s, he got excited and prancey. He took the stuffed toy out himself, and supervised the installation of a new blankie in his crate.

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Every few days, I tell him a story – about how great he is, how strong and smart and brave. I tell him that most people cant do what he’s done, that people aren’t good at putting bad things behind them, starting again, trying again. I tell him that in his world now, everyone he knows loves him. In his world now, he is always safe, always loved.

I’m trying to teach him another word – forever.

Bonus/Bogus

It’s the holiday season.  Last year was probably Bosco’s first Christmas, and he had no idea what to make of my rituals.

This year, however…. He’s seen it all before. And he’s formed opinions.  And he’s quite willing to share them.

The main thing I do is put up a fake tree that probably has more lights and ornaments than the other trees on my block – combined.

tree

Last year I half expected Bosco to wipe it out, but with a few exceptions, he didn’t bother it at all. Once was the intentional removal of one ornament, for the sole purpose of seeing my reaction.  Note that this year, the bottom section does not have the same ornament density as the rest of the tree.  That’s because Bosco’s tail is very strong. A good wag cuts through an ornament like a hot knife through butter.

He wanted to participate this year.  He likes the ornaments, and enjoys sniffing the boxes – since they’re all from my family or thrift stores, I imagine they are quite stinky.  I never ever want to know what he’s smelling.  He thought the bead garlands were a lot of fun, and enjoyed trailing behind them as I wound them around the tree – until I didn’t see him, and stepped on him.  That was the end of his decorating dreams.  He promoted himself to supervisor and watched from the other side of the room.

The holidays are running 50/50 for him.  Either something is wonderful, or it’s dreadful. Every event has a little bit of both.

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BONUS:

I got a present!  A blanket of my very own.

IMG_2097.

BOGUS:

My person’s blanket is bigger.  And it matches me. It should be mine.

big quilt.

BONUS:

We got another present! It was a big box of cheese and baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaconnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…..    I got to play with the box.

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BOGUS:

I only got to play with the box. No cheese or bacon for me.

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BONUS:

I got another present!  It was sitting on a table and I found it and I played with it all day. It was soft and squishy.  Since I found it, I got to keep it.

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BOGUS:

sweaterIt wasn’t a toy.

poutingI was so traumatized that I took my teddy and went to bed.

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BONUS:

sitThe tree is done! Now I get to pose for pictures and practice my “sit” and get rewarded.

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BOGUS:

hatI should have eaten this hat last year.

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BONUS:

normal poseI got some cheese!  I am very handsome.

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BOGUS:

santa photo

The only reason I’m doing this is that it’s damn good cheese.

And I’m gonna eat the hat.

A Part ……. or Apart?

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Trying something new today – a podcast.  Okay, to be honest, I recorded this last night while I was driving, and I don’t want to transcribe it.

Part 1:

Bosco touring Lisa's enormous yard

Bosco touring Lisa’s enormous yard

The book I mentioned is called “I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship.” Ummm…  yes you are.

Part 2.  I lost patience with garage band and trying to split this up into sections.  So somewhere around 3:14, scroll down and look at the next photo:

the view

the view

Part 3:

Fur-larious

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Every night I come home to find Bosco standing at the top of the 2nd floor stairwell. Every so often, he stands in front of me with his head low, and his ears all tucked in and rounded, looking like teddy bear ears.

Like this:

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I’ve learned that these ears have a specific message:

Mistakes were made.

Let’s be clear – we’re not talking run of the mill accidents. Sometimes he can’t hold it, especially if I’ve been lolly gagging around the grocery debating what kind of apples to buy. Every living creature poops, and I’ve long since accepted that with dogs, you can’t always control when and where that happens.

I’m talking about the momentous and cataclysmic, confusing and logic-defying moment that leaves me standing slack-jawed and furious, and yet is so hilarious that I laugh until I can’t breathe.

Fur-larious.

On Bosco’s third day home, I awoke to the sound of him pushing something around with his nose, and flipping it up in the air. I can’t see squat without my glasses, and I thought he was playing with the skinny cow toy I’d bought for him.  I was glad he was playing, and congratulated myself on my intuitive toy buying skills. Then I heard crinkling. And I thought “crinkling is bad.” So I tracked down the sound, and found Bosco going to town on a sheath of papers. He was chowing down his adoption and medical records.

Bosco seemed to start bonding with me in October. I’d been home for a week’s vacation, then back at work for a week, and then Hurricane Sandy wiped out the electricity at the office, so I was home for another week. I was back at work the following Monday, much to Bosco’s dismay. The next morning I could not find the shoes I wanted to wear. My first thought was “oh crap, did I accidentally give them to the thrift store?” I will admit I have a history of mixing up the keep and give piles and having to go buy my own clothes back. But then I realized….I’d worn them the day before.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what I did next. I looked under Bosco’s butt. Yep, shoes. And a big boy who pretended he had no idea how they got there.

I like vanilla yogurt, and I buy the big tubs of it. Bosco’s indicated that he would like it too, if he ever got to taste it. I’ve also been known to treat myself to a Sunday bacon and egg breakfast, and that’s how some eggshells and bacon grease wound up in a empty-ish yogurt tub in the kitchen wastebasket.

The next night I learned what it meant when a big dog rolls up his ears in a teddy bear shape. When I came in the door, my first thought was “what’s with the tiny bits of plastic on the floor?” Then I slipped, and I thought “what did I track in from outside?” Then I walked through the dining room, and things crunched under my feet, and I thought “wow, I need to vacuum.”

I’m a little thick sometimes.

Reality smacked me in the face when I walked in the kitchen. Every square inch of the room was covered in bits of trash bag, eggshells, bacon grease and yogurt. I cannot begin to describe the horror, or the time it took to clean up. I didn’t find the yogurt tub for four days.

I’m going to tell you right now that the absolute best product in the whole world is the Simple Human kitchen wastebasket with the pet-proof lid. This product prevents the above story from repeating. But it doesn’t stop Bosco from trying. He once managed to pull a nearly empty bag out of it, so that he could play with the yogurt lid liner.

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I recently decided to eliminate butter from my repertoire for health reasons – but not the ones you’d expect. About a month ago, I realized I was going through it very quickly, and I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t like I was slathering everything I ate in it, yet somehow I was going through a stick every two days or so.

It finally clicked when I came home and discovered some minor mischief – hand towels pulled down, the wastebasket had been repositioned, etc. While surveying the “damage,” I remembered that I’d set out a fresh stick of butter that morning. And now it was gone. If I hadn’t eaten it, there was only one other answer.

But he’s not talking. He’s just standing there with teddy bear ears.

Jubilee

MUFFINS

Bosco has been home for six months. Today is our anniversary. I spent a lot of time this week reflecting on where we started, and where we are today.

It’s been an existentialist journey for Bosco. Laura pointed out that he’s spent his whole life just being. Now he’s in an open environment, and discovering that he has wants and choices. Now he’s learning how to express those wants, and make those choices.

That’s a lot of pressure. A few nights ago, Bosco really wanted me to sit on the sofa and pet him. I was sitting in a chair. He wanted my affection so much that he stood in front of me on his hind legs, poking at me with his front paws. He was so excited when I moved to the sofa, and flung himself up next to me. But of course I over-cuddled, which made him nervous, and he curled up in his “this is too much for me” position. So I went back to my chair. And Bosco came back and pawed at me again. This time I was careful and rubbed his heinie, which was apparently what he’d had in mind all along.

He’s also discovering things. The holidays were full of delicious baked goods, and he knew he could not live without peppernuts, or shortbread, or labor-intensive cookies. Bosco NEEEEEEEDED them. Even though he never knew they existed, he couldn’t live without them. So yeah, he’s learning to beg. But it ain’t working.

So far.

Decision-making is part of Bosco’s life now, and it’s fun seeing what he comes up with. He’s starting to be mischievous now, and I love it. I’ll tell you lots of stories soon, because his mischief deserves a full column. But here’s a story on how his mind works….

Every morning and evening, we walk eight blocks. Bosco uses two plastic bags on each walk – one a few yards after we start, and the other on the Nationwide Insurance lawn four blocks away. Nowhere else. It’s a little OCD.

The low temperatures meant we couldn’t do long walks, and that second bag never came into play. Of course that didn’t remove the need for it. On the days that I had to go to work, I’d put a towel down by the back door, and at some point, he’d use it. This worked just fine. Until last Monday, when I forgot to put the towel down.

When I came home, I found that Bosco had figured it out. He knew if a towel was down, he would not get in trouble. But there was no towel, and he had to go. What to do?

This is the moment I knew that Bosco is pretty smart. I walked to the back door, and discovered his solution. He saw the curtain by the back door, pulled it down, and pooped on it.

I love this dog.

Six months ago, we just getting to know each other. He was afraid of everything, and I was afraid I couldn’t help him, that I couldn’t show him there was more to life than waiting for things to happen to him. But with help, we’re getting there.

This would never have happened without the people below. My eternal gratitude to:

Bernadette Peters
Patty Saccente

Vinny
Rop
Betty K
Julie
Jay
Everyone at BARC

Robyn
Bill

Auntie Laura
and Emmy – who taught everyone she met that rescue dogs are the best

Toy Story

Auntie Laura is the best. First, she gives up a whole day to help you ride home from the shelter, and sits in the back seat with you even though she gets carsick, and doesn’t even care that you’re stinky and farting up the car for three hours.

I wrote that from Bosco’s perspective. Really. I swear.

Last week Auntie Laura gave Bosco a huuuuuuuuuge basket of dog toys. I will admit to being  skeptical about his enjoyment potential.  I recalled Rop at BARC saying Bosco didn’t understand toys. He was given a toy to come home with, and I’d purchased a few others, hoping to understand what he liked.

He had no reaction to toys – unless you count that he destroyed a fleecey pillow  when he was at a doggie hotel, and I consider that to be more about boredom than play. I like to play catch with a ball, but he just doesn’t get how it works – he flings himself in front of the ball, and then gets upset when it hits him. His idea of play is to run around the yard, and then run at me. Only problem is that he doesn’t know how to stop on his own. So he runs into me. I think about Joe Theisman a lot.

So I brought home Laura’s stuffed toys, figuring that they’d sit around untouched for a few weeks, and then I’d get sick of tripping over them and put them away in a closet.

But Bosco surprised me. I set the basket down and waited to see what he’d do. I thought he’d at least get off the sofa to check it out, but instead he just leeeeeeeeaned off the cushion edge to look. Then the faux-fur bonding began.

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Bosco’s number one draft pick, a fleecy sheep with red feet, got carried up on the sofa. Within the hour he had his starting lineup. This rotation includes a teddy bear AND a giraffe. Wilfred viewers will understand why that made me more than a little nervous.

Now here’s the thing – I don’t know what dogs are supposed to do with stuffed toys. My beagle had 26 tennis balls, and one stuffed toy that he’d throw into the refrigerator as a diversion to snatch food. My parents’ dog treated stuffed animals as puppies, and she was protectively weird with them. Do male dogs do the fake puppy thing?

Apparently Bosco does. Over the next 24 hours, he picked which toys went upstairs to his bed. And yes, the bear and giraffe are in that group.  But it seems he has nurturing on his mind. Since I hadn’t fed them in a week, Bosco decided to take on that responsibility himself.

puppies
Bosco’s a family man now.

The Paw

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When Bosco moved in, he didn’t know what to do with himself, or me.  He spent his first few weeks sitting in corners pressed against the wall. He never turned his back on me. He wouldn’t eat when I was watching. He wouldn’t let himself fall asleep when I was in the room.

But at the same time, he thought that maybe he might sort of like it if there was a chance of someone considering the possibility of skritching his ears.

Maybe.  But he wasn’t going to commit to that.

He would slowly walk up to me, and stand with an expression of longing and uncertainty. He wanted affection, but it made him uncomfortable.

I tried to be sensitive to the situation, but the reality is that Bosco is so cute and cuddly, it’s hard not to hug him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him and call him good boy. And when I do that, he ducks his head away from me, and curls himself up into a  question mark shape. Teacher Robyn says that means he can’t handle that level of intimacy.

So then I would back off and let him set the tone – which was to stand in front of me with an expression of longing and uncertainly.  But then we found a middle ground.

Robyn, just skip this paragraph, okay?  One evening I came home to find Bosco sleeping on the sofa. My last dog was not allowed on the furniture, and I’d intended to keep that policy with Bosco. But that night, he was so cute. And he gave me his first super happy tail wag. And I sat down next to him and told him how cute he was and how much I loved him. And he pressed himself against me. We started to sit on the sofa together, with his butt pressed against my hip, and my arm draped over his back. Then I would sneak in subtle petting on his shoulder, and he would fall asleep.

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So we turned the corner. For the next few months, I woke up in the middle of the night to find him at my bedside with his head on the mattress, staring at me. I’d say “I’m still here, baby,” he’d get happy, I’d pet his head, and then he’d go back to his bed.

We’re building on Bosco loving, bit by bit. Sometimes when we’re on the sofa, I get his head in my lap. One night when I had a houseguest, I had half the dog in my lap. That’s when I knew that I am “his person,” and he wanted to make sure my guest knew that too.

We’re working towards the big one – tummy rubs. Whenever Bosco’s proud of himself, and/or all worked up, he will leap into my arms. When he’s really happy, he’ll fall down and roll over for a few seconds. I try to get some quality rubbing in there before he realizes what’s happening. Right now it’s still too much for him to lay there all exposed, but I can tell he likes it.

But best of all…. Bosco’s gotten used to receiving affection by me petting his shoulder. I’ve used that to idly connect with him while I do something else, to keep him from being nervous when we walk outside, and to reset his comfort level after I’ve cuddled him too hard. And now he does it to me. He takes his big paw, puts it on my shoulder, and moves it down my arm. And then he does it again.

Bosco pets me.