Allie's never been a big fan of cars, and after last week's misadventure on I-270, that lack of enthusiasm morphed into a no-way-no-how-am-I-getting-into-one-of-those-things-ever-again attitude. I couldn't blame her. Not only did the unwelcome contact of an SUV with my car's back end destroy Allie's seat belt, sending her to the floor between the back seat and front seat, but she also had to stay in the car as it was being loaded onto the tow truck, because there was no room for her in the cab. Then, when we got to the gas station where the tow guys dropped us off, she had to clamber down the ramp of the truck bed, with my help. By the time Stan got to the gas station to drive us both home, Allie had to literally be pushed into his car.
The very next day, I started walking around the car with Allie on leash and a clicker and treats (cheddar cheese--yum!) in one hand. The first day, we merely walked around Julie's car, and would stop every few feet for her to sit and for me to click and treat her. The next day, I opened the car door, and placed some cheese on the very edge of the seat. After some hesitation, she tentatively took the cheese. For the next few days after that, I made a Hansel and Gretel trail of treats halfway across the back seat -- first in Julie's car, then in my new set of wheels. In either car, Allie was willing to put her front paws on the seat and reach for the cheese, but that was as far as she'd go.
Then I remembered how I'd persuaded her to come into a local creek and swim. No treats were involved. The inducement was a tennis ball. I waded into the middle of the creek and held the ball out for her to see. That sight was enough for her to overcome her water-based timidity (yes, she is a Golden Retriever. But clearly an unusual Golden Retriever) and discover that she actually did like swimming, particularly when ball retrieval was involved.
So for the past three days, I've taken Allie's favorite pink-and-orange Orbee ball and tossed it onto the opposite end of the Allie car's back seat. With just a little coaxing, Allie has jumped into the back seat to retrieve the ball. The first day she managed to get past me and run with the ball into our back yard and make a fool of me playing keepaway. But I didn't get upset, I just thought "Great! She's getting a great real-life reward for venturing into the car!" And eventually, she did give up the ball and come back into the house.
I didn't make that mistake again, though. Yesterday and today, Allie again hopped into the car to get the ball, but I went in right after her and grabbed her leash. We sat on the back seat together and I let her gum the ball for a couple of minutes. Then we headed up to the nearby middle school field to play a rousing early-morning game of fetch, after which we returned home and I put the ball into a tote bag I'm keeping in the Allie car.
We haven't gone motoring together in the new car yet. That'll probably occur over the weekend, after the new back seat cover arrives and I install it. We'll take some short trips to local parks where Allie and I can play fetch, and we may even venture over to that local creek for the first time this year. But in any case, I have high hopes that Allie's and my travels together are not a thing of the past. Fingers crossed....
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