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Rock-It asks to be petted.  I ask her how.

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Rock-It with her front paw resting in my hand

And I get a Beatle’s song!

In reality, what I get is a dog who doesn’t really know how to tell me where or how she wants to be touched.  But she’s figuring it out.

Rock-It struggles often with impulse control.  And with wanting physical contact, but doing so in a way that means a lot of bashing around, explosions and disengagement.  It’s actually interesting to watch her pattern unfold.  And start to see the confusion she suffers with every interaction.

She’s so used to people touching her in ways that are beyond her control, that it becomes a form of punishment.  She’s so used to people getting upset when she’s hurts them with her leaping and bashing (trust me, she hurts.  She’s nearly broken my face a number of times in the years I’ve known her).  She’s so used to restraint being part of contact (in part for human self preservation, she wants to be near and be touched so to limit risk of an unexpected leap up, people restrain her in some form hand in collar or otherwise), an unwanted part of contact, that she is a very conflicted sweet dog.

But she’s starting to figure out how to lead the dance.  That I want her to tell me where and how she wants.  That I won’t force her.  That she can leave at any time.  She’s still trying to believe me.  But she’s trying.

She comes up, I offer my hand.  It’s up to her what to do with it.  If she puts her paw it it, I’ll pet her foot then pause.  It’s up to her what to do with it.  Move it, walk away, lie down, nudge me, up to her.  She’s starting to do more than give me her paw.  Now sometimes I get an ear to rub.  Or a cheek to scritch.  Sometimes a bridge of a nose to rub.  Before she used to freeze the moment I started to touch her, freeze or leave (then usually return right in at speed only to leave once more).  Conflicted.  Now sometimes when I pause, she asks me to do more.  She moves my hand to where she wants.  Little by little she’s figuring out it doesn’t have to be about speed, control, explosions, confusion.  It can be about communication.

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Rock-It and I paw and hand.