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I first heard about Thor from a friend of mine in the veterinary industry. She has seen many neglected , abused and badly injured animals but she found Thor's case extremely upsetting.
I decided I would go and visit him to see if I could help in any way.
Read more to find out how it all wend down
On my first visit Thor was sedated for dressing changes and was being treated by Emma Robertson who has been using progressive laser therapy on Thor's open wounds. As Thor was sedated I couldn't assess his mental state, but I could have a chat with the team at Riverview who have been taking great care of Thor, and I found out more about Thor's history and medical treatment to date and ongoing.
As I didn't get to assess Thor, I could only give Val Thor's nurse and best friend, advice and tips on how to make his life easier. With a dog that has had a history such as thor's, the number one key to their recovery is patience.
There were plans to take Thor home to show him some of the good life, but sadly, with dogs like Thor, he's never learnt how lovely it is to curl up on the couch with cuddles, so for him, cuddles would be extremely frightening and distressing. I advised that Thor has already begun to settle in the veterinary practice it would be best for Thor to remain there and give him more time to increase his confidence.
I advised that any touch be avoided unless essential. To a dog like Thor, hands have never represented a nice experience, and as he has many injuries, both external and internal, it is likely that touching him will be quite painful. Touch must be avoided until Thor seeks it out.
Thor has his own room at the vets which is great, he doesn't have the added stress of other animals in his room. I advised that instead of staying in his veterinary kennel where there is nowhere to hide, that he is moved into a crate, with an open door, that is half covered with a blanket. This gives Thor choice. Something he probably never had before. Chose is massive for dogs, and now Thor can choose whether or not people can see him.
I introduced a treat and retreat to the team. Up to now, the arrival of people was stressful for Thor, whereas with the treat and retreat programme, the arrival of a person is paired with the arrival of a treat, and then the person disappears again immediately.
My next visit out to Thor was a few days later when he was awake. I used this visit as an opportunity to assess his body language and interest in human company.
Myself and Val sat in the room with Thor and offered him a Yoggie treat (frozen yogurt dog treat). He did come out and take the Yoggie but avoided looking at us and qute quickly returned to his bed when Val left the room. He than went in behind the blanket and turned his back to us, he had enough!
This gave me an opportunity to find out where Thor was now, so that I could put together a plan for my next visit.
Now that I knew how shut down and closed off Thor was, I returned with a plan! I still needed to assess how Thor responded to other dogs, but first on the agenda was to restore Thor's trust in humans.
Myself and Nicola, a student on the Advanced Canine Behaviour course with Creedons College, arrived with Natures Menu treats, corned beef, chicken and Frankfurters (please note pork products are not recommended to dogs as they can lead to pancreatitis when fed a lot, but in this situation, a little as a treat will be ok).
We progressed very very slowly, and over 90mins we were absolutely thrilled with the success of our session! We ensured we gave Thor lots and lots of breaks throughout our sessions, leaving the room and closing the door so that Thor didn't feel overwhelmed. At the start of the session he was petrified when we approached, at the end he was eating out of both mine and Nicola's hands!
We went back out again to visit Thor the next morning and he remembered who we were and was looking for his treats straight away! We were able to progress further, this time adding background noise with people pottering about and making noises. Thor was well able, and I decided to push him further by getting him to choose to come out of his crate to get treats! This is absolutely massive progress as to date his crate is his safe zone and he would never have left it with strangers in the room.
We did try introduce Thor to a stuffed dog at a distance, placed on its side with its head away from Thor which is the least invasive way to introduce another dog, but he immediately began to panic in his quiet way (trembling, stopped eating, moved body away, whites of eyes showing etc.) so we removed it straight away and will postpone introducing to dogs for a while yet, definitely waiting until at least he has physically healed as then he won't feel as vulnerable.
There was massive changes in him already from the two sessions, and Val is going to take him home this weekend to continue the treat and retreat. I'm really looking forward to getting back out to the little fella again next week to progress with what he has already achieved, so proud of him!!
Lots to share !