As you know, my city dog Jack is the joy of my life. Just catching sight of his blocky tan and white head tucked under a pile of white paws as he sleeps in front of the fireplace stops me in my tracks.
Jack, however, does have one flaw. He will not get into the car to leave the property. Whenever I get out his bright red harness, he runs over to have me put it on. He wiggles from end to end when I attach his matching leash and we begin the walk toward the car; but halfway there, he freezes and the happy wiggles turn to terrified shivers.
At first I gave him a pass because of the broken rear leg he was nursing when we brought him home. But as months passed, I noticed that, while he couldn’t seem to get into the back of the car to leave the property, he cleared the bumper like a pole-vaulter in the early rounds when it was time to come home. That’s when I decided I was being conned.
I didn’t really mind. To tell you the truth, Jack and I don’t go out much. He gets plenty of exercise chasing squirrels and chipmunks and sniffing around the forested perimeter of his home turf. On those rare occasions when I had to get him to the vet or groomer, I simply hoisted him into the back of the car like the 50-pound bags of horse feed I’d loaded in for years.
Recently, however, I find that 50 pounds is about 25 pounds more than I can hoist. My clumsy efforts to lift Jack make him even more resistant causing him to extend his front and back legs as far as possible and go completely stiff like one of those cardboard cutouts we used to send off on adventures. This movement is done with such force that, twice, Flat Jack has sent us both flying backward with near-disastrous results.
The last couple of times I’ve had to take Jack out, I’ve called on my good friend and dog whisperer, Heidi. If she takes the back and I take the front, we are just able to maneuver Flat Jack over the tailgate and plop him onto his favorite blanket. Clearly, though, we are in a precarious place. If Jack should have an emergency in the middle of the night or when Heidi isn’t available to co-hoist, my inability to get him into the car could spell tragedy. I can’t take that chance.
Enter trainer Carol Peter. After analyzing the situation and determining that Jack truly is terrified at the thought of getting into the car to go away from home, she recommended that I buy a lightweight ramp and very slowly get him used to crossing it flat on the driveway before gradually raising one end until he becomes comfortable with it. Then, and only then, are we to associate the ramp with the car. Carol warned that this would take time. She was right.
In only a few tries, we had Jack walking the ramp with no hesitation in response to some very smelly treats and a whole lot of praise. He even started to enjoy walking the ramp up the three steps into the back porch. Then abruptly, all progress stopped. The stinky treats that got him fairly dancing across the ramp for the first week or two suddenly were completely abhorrent, and nothing else I had in my arsenal was any more appealing. Sadly, that’s where we are now. I’m off to the store to buy raw chicken and several other disgusting delicacies Carol has recommended, and we’ll keep on trying. I just hope Heidi stays close until we get this worked out.