Happy Gotcha Day, Cassi!
Reflecting on a year with my beautiful Rommie girl.
Wow, it’s been exactly a year since we welcomed this adorable little bundle into our lives! Cassi is a Romanian rescue dog from Rocky Road Rescue, and I’ve written about her and her adoptive sister, Delphi, if you’d like to check out my profile!
There’s been so much progress and happiness in a year, and things have improved even more since we introduced Delphi. It’s also been super interesting seeing the differences between them.
Of course, it’s not all been sunshine and roses, and there are still things that need working on, which I’ll talk about later on. But first, a quick Cassi bio, written by the little monster herself:
My name is: Cassiopeia, but everyone calls me Cassi
My nicknames: Cass, Bean, Boozle, Cassoulet, Ears, Little Beb, Baby Girl, Böhne, Knobber, and NO
My breed is: Whooooo knows. People have guessed everything from a kelpie mix to a shepherd mix and a chihuahua mix. Probably all the mixes.
My age is: Almost 3
My favourite human food: Anything at all, but I’m a particular fan of meat, cheese, and fruity things
My biggest fear: Everything. Mainly strange people (why are they walking around in circles, mum?!), people coming into the house, very specific-looking old men, and not being able to have a bite of what the pawrents are eating.
My favourite thing to do: Whine, annoy mum and Delphi, bark at nothing, and eat. Oh, and cuddle Daddy because he’s the best.
My favourite toy: Delphi. I don’t really do toys, but I like my squeaky snake when I remember him, and I like my squeaky plush bone with the C on it from Auntie Shauna.
Do I love car rides? So-so. I like them much more when mum sits in the back with me.
Do I snore? Yep, like a man sometimes! Mum is mean and videos me when I’m sleeping. Creeper.
Where do I sleep? In mum and dad’s bed, preferably in the most annoying position.
Where I was born: Somewhere in Romania, I was picked up near Bucharest before the being removed from one of the worst shelters in the country.
My job: Harassing rodents, protecting the house from people with scary boxes, exercising Delphi, cleaning mum after her baths, and finding mum under the blanket when she gets lost and yells, “FIND ME!” She’s dumb, and I’m too busy for this shit.
Thanks for that, Cass 🙄 Without further ado, here are some Cassi nuggets, including things that have and haven’t changed.
So, Cassi arrived on 15th May 2021 on a dreary afternoon. (You can check out the full week one diary here.) The first thing she did when she got into the garden was eat wet grass, and that’s not changed! She still loves a munch on grass. I can use grass as bribery for great dog photos, as she doesn’t like posing. Delphi, on the other hand? She loves the camera!
Anxiety and proximity tolerance
Cassi was super jumpy when she first arrived, and she was scared of many things. She’s still afraid of a lot now, but she’s generally much calmer and more tolerant of things. She even sat and watched me angrily attack my punchbag the other day with no qualms. I was amazed!
One of the main improvements is how well she copes with her people in her space. Even five to six months in, if I leaned in near her or kissed her on the head, she would growl or nip my nose. Now she feels much safer and loves a head kiss and nuzzle!
While Cassi has never been a serious resource guarder like Delphi, she’s definitely growled at me when she’s had yummy bones. I think the last time she growled at me with a treat was about two months ago, and she’s happy to let me take stuff now as she knows I’m often just going to move it to another spot for her. She loves eating bones against me, and they hurt!
My (and everyone else’s) obsession with her ears
Just look at them! I love the way they change position — one minute they’ll be on top of her head as she listens to neighbours, and the next they’ll be on the side of her head like Baby Yoda. Aaaah, help, the cuteness is killing me!
She’s also a big hit on Reddit’s r/sonarears. She’s in their top lifetime posts! ❤
We identified pretty quickly that she didn’t like people, especially older men, and she’s dog reactive — a frustrated greeter most of the time, to be precise. I worked really hard on the dog reactivity, and she is a lot better now.
On a walk the other day, she greeted a dog nicely, left her alone straight away, and carried on walking; I was so impressed! Normally, I don’t allow on-lead greetings as she can get snappy, but she was calm, and the path was so narrow that we didn’t really have a choice. We’d also met the dog a few times before, and she’s a little sweetie.
The people problems are still there, though! We have to introduce any visitors to her outside the house, and if they’re staying, we ideally need to walk together so Cassi can get used to their presence. One of our staying visitors got their face lunged at (in the front garden, too!) so I strongly enforce the walk-before-coming-in approach now.
Delphi is the opposite: She loves people, but she’s scared of dogs. So I have one dog pulling me towards a dog and another with their hackles up trying to get away: one dog yelling at a visitor and the other jumping on them. Great combo!
Although their reactivity throws up various challenges, one of the best things about getting Delphi is that we don’t need to walk as much now. We’re lucky to have a big garden with lots of great sniffs and nooks and crannies for them to play in. Delphi also manages to dig up a bone every so often, which they’ll chase each other for and throw around — hilarious!
They have crazy zoomie sessions, and they crash out and sleep for hours after! They’ve made special little runways through the hedges to hide from each other and chase their way through. So cute, and you can tell they really enjoy tricking each other with which way they’re going to go!
So there’s no need to stress these little girls out by seeing scary people or dogs that don’t respect their space. It’s nice to not have to worry about trigger stacking and everything else that comes with reactive dogs. They absolutely love playing with each other, and I’m so glad they’re friends!
When we go out, we either book a secure field for them to enjoy with their best dog friend, Eddie, or go on a pack walk with their friend, Yoshi. We also stick to short circuits near home so we can get them back home quickly if something triggers them.
One thing I’m really glad that changed was how early she wakes up. When she first got here, she was up at 6 am. No. Thank. You. Ben works until 1 am or so, and I get engrossed in my freelance stuff until gone midnight, so the last thing we need is 6 am wake-ups! Thankfully, she’s adapted to our sleep schedule, and she’ll happily sleep in until noon. Yay!
How much I love her tail
Again, look at it! It’s so perfect. How?!
Cassi was terrified of the rain when she arrived, essentially having panic attacks if she had to go out in it or if we got caught in it. Not ideal as British weather is notoriously wet and unpredictable!
Since Delphi arrived, Cass has learned that rain isn’t so scary. She went out last week in torrential rain for a wee! Usually, she would have held it until it stopped raining. I never force her out, I leave it up to her, and I’m always super proud if she decides to go outside.
Her rain issue extends to water in general, so we’ve only bathed her once in the whole time we’ve had her. Early on, we tried to wash her paws off with the showerhead, but she was having none of that! She did her best deer impression, springing her way out of the bath. Oops!
It was only about a month ago, when she rolled in something gross and poopy in the garden, that we had to take the plunge and get her clean. She did really well, but she still wasn’t a fan.
She’s still practicing for her archaeology exams.
One thing that hasn’t changed is her love for whining. Since she arrived, she’s been a massive whiner. This doesn’t mesh well with my misophonia, but I deal with it! The vet checked her, and she’s perfectly healthy, so it’s not a pain thing. I’m pretty sure she just needs 24/7 attention. I relate.
Cute Cassi quirks
- She looooves brushes! She gets a really waggy tail when the brush comes out. Delphi has also learned brushes are nice, pushing Cassi out of the way to get some of her own!
- She loves “pah-pah-pah”. I eat or drink something that I know she’ll love, so I say, “pah-pah?” and she’ll run over to me. I breathe yummy smells in her face while going “pah-pah-pah”, and she’ll lick the air or my face. Super cute! Her favourite smells are fruity.
- Cassi has to lick me after a bath. Either it’s “oh god, you’re wet!” or she likes how my skin and hair taste afterwards. I wish I could ask her!
- She loves giving kisses and her paw. We’ve recently been teaching her a trick to go with a song that has the lyrics “Just wanna hold your hand,” and she gives her paw 90% of the time!
- She loves playing “find it” for treats or “find me” when Ben or I hide under blankets. She’ll dig us out, get really excited, and it’s super cute.
- She loves cuddling Daddy, but she prefers to sit really close to me, almost like she’s trying to turn us into a single entity. Vicassi.
- Cass plays to win, and it can look aggressive! She’ll try and flip the other dog and sit on them. She loves grabbing back legs, which she accidentally taught Delphi to do; she’s unimpressed that her sister does it now!
- We taught her how to howl, and I can sometimes get her to awoo on cue! She’s a really clever girl and can pick up tricks within a couple of sessions.
Things that still need work
While I love this beautiful little girl, and she’s brought so much good into my life, I acknowledge there are still plenty of things that need work. A lot of the issues simply come down to her stubbornness, which is simultaneously frustrating and hilarious because same.
Ah yes. Recall—our worst enemy. Even in the garden, I’ll call her, make eye contact, and she’ll ignore me and walk off. Bit rude, mate. Sometimes she amazes me as she wants to listen and come back when we’re out, but it’s so sporadic! I think it will forever be a work in progress because of her prey drive, impulse control, and reactivity.
She recalls pretty well to Eddie’s owner, though, so we have that! And she will listen to “cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese” most of the time, but I’d rather keep that tasty treat for me.
This primarily relates to her inability to be off-lead and not run at another dog 90% of the time. She’s improved, but it’s one of her biggest problems.
We’ve trained impulse control by making her wait for treats with “leave it”, and she can honestly wait for ages if necessary. Dogs are clearly more appealing than food! Generally, if she runs off to another dog, I’ll put her straight back on the lead to show her that it’s not worth it!
This one is a given really; it’s hard to train reactivity out of an anxious dog! But she’s made a lot of progress with “leave it” and “look at me”, which fills me with confidence for the future!
Barking at air
Cassi likes a good bark! Some days she can chill in the garden sunbathing for ages without a peep. Other days? She goes out and immediately starts yelling every minute. Very annoying when I’m trying to work! She is a good alert dog, though, and I’m pretty sure she’d murder an intruder, whereas Delphi would try to kill them with kisses.
On the positive side, all of these things have improved in a year.
I could talk about her all day, so I’m gonna wrap it up. All in all, I love this special girl. She’s brought so much joy to my life, and I’d be lost without her. Thank you, Cassi, and happy gotcha day! ❤
You can see more Cassi (and Delphi!) on their Instagram.
Once again, a huge thank you to Rocky Road Rescue for saving these beauties.