Follow-up: Luna the Lab Mix
Many of you will remember Luna the Lab mix as she was in her Season 4 debut - cowering under tables, peeking around corners, and running for her life from… well, everything! But with Cesar's expert help and the patient and loving guidance of her handler, Abel Delgado, Luna, now nearly 5 years old, has conquered her fears and is living a happy and fulfilled life with her new pack mate Noel. We caught up with Abel this week to get the inside scoop on Luna's surprisingly dramatic recovery.
CMI: Can you briefly describe what Luna's main difficulty was before she worked with Cesar?
AD: She was a very fearful dog. She had a lot of anxiety; she would just sit in the corner and shake. Everything terrified her. I would take her on walks and she would crouch down on the ground like a cat that was ready to hunt, but really, she was just afraid that everything was coming at her. So, severe anxiety. In fact, Cesar said that, at the time, she was the most severe anxiety case that he had ever seen.
CMI: And how has she progressed?
AD: She didn't even feel comfortable in our home at first – she would hide in her crate or under our bed – but she doesn't do that anymore. She's out roaming and running around, and she's gotten into the habit lately of jumping up to look out of the windows, where before she was absolutely terrified to take in the outside world. She's a completely different dog in terms of how she interacts with people; she's much more social and much more curious. And she's more active now! She acts like a normal dog, which is good. We go on regular walks, and as of about a year or a year and a half ago, she has a companion dog. That has really helped her out, because one of the things we learned was that she doesn't tolerate the outside world well, but if she is around other dogs, she does much better. That's one of the reasons Cesar ended up taking her to work with her at the Dog Psychology Center for several months. Because he felt that it wasn't going to be a human being that would be able to really bring her out of this; it was going what he calls "nature leading nature." The dogs there helped to teach her how to be a dog and interact like a dog. So when I got her back, one of the things I decided to do to help bring her out of the anxious state she would sometimes fall into is to get another dog. So I got a male dog, and they do very, very well together. He's a St. Bernard pit mix named Noel. He's about a year and a half old now. They play like crazy, and the interesting thing is that she used to be terrified of any sort of play, even with me. Any kind of contact, or anything coming at her, she perceived as a threat or a danger. So it's interesting to see, because Noel plays rough and she has really opened up to that. I'm thrilled to see her interacting that way, it's really great for her. They have a very good relationship; they're very fond of each other and I think she really responds to his leadership. He's very curious – your typical, playful young dog – and one of the things she really picks from him is that when he responds to things with curiosity, instead of going into her typical freak-out mode, she responds with curiosity, as well. Or if we're out on a walk and she becomes frightened or nervous about something, he will walk right up and sniff it, and that gives her the confidence to do the same thing.
CMI: How is her socialization with other dogs besides Noel? Do you guys go to the dog park together?
AD: We used to do the dog parks, but I have found that after working with Cesar, I don't enjoy the dog parks as much anymore. In my opinion, there is a lot of weird energy with many of the dogs there. Some of them are very high-strung, and I don't think that's a good environment for Luna. I find that my dogs do much better on hikes, so I take them up to Runyon Canyon and we do off-leash hikes. What I like about that is that we have a very set goal in mind, so we're constantly moving as a pack. They can interact with other dogs, and I find that the dogs on the hikes are much calmer, because they're roaming and walking, versus being pent up in a park. So that's what we end up doing just about every weekend. It's great for them!