Cliff Notes of Marcy’s First 3 Weeks

Unfortunately, the day job really interferes with my ability to write, so here we are at week 3 of attempting to tame the Shrew we know as Marcy and there are current stories I want to get to.  So, in an attempt to keep up, here is Marcy’s first 3 weeks in a nutshell to explain how we have been working with her.

For those who haven’t read Marcy’s introduction, now would be a good time.  You can read it here:

If you don’t have time to read it, here is the short version:  Marcy is older than she looks, she is completely feral, and she has no use for humans.


Let the fun begin:

For the first few days, we kept Marcy leashed inside and out.  It was our 6 feet of additional space in which to catch her in.   Unlike other dogs (abuse cases) where I would attach the leash to my person, Marcy’s was only attached to her, not me.

When she was outside, she was attached to a 15 foot line.  Rationale:  We DEFINITELY didn’t want her to get loose in the back yard…  we would never be able to catch her!

Due to the shrieking when she felt the leash restraining her, if we touched her, if we looked at her, etc. we really didn’t go out of our way to handle her.  She had never been inside a house.  Actually, her movements had never even been restricted before.   She certainly didn’t need us adding to her stress and confusion.   Contact was not important those first days, but the ability to catch her was.

By the end of the first week, though we could still barely touch her, it was pretty apparent Marcy thought inside was pretty cool.  That and the other dogs that is, so we were able to remove the leash completely and didn’t have to tie her up outside.  Where the other dogs went, so too did Marcy.

Initially, Marcy latched onto a specific dog bed in the bedroom.  When inside, that is where she planted herself and refused to move from.  That was also the only place she would allow anyone to touch her.  Contact was short, only a couple of minutes, and only a few times a day.

SnapShot(12) copy

But we still had the problem where she wouldn’t voluntarily leave the bedroom, so after dinner every night, the bedroom door was closed and Marcy was forced to stay in the living room with the rest of us.  If given the choice, Marcy will stay in the bedroom, only now it is UNDER the bed, so this banishment to the living room continues every night.  If made to stay in the livingroom, she plays, sleeps, and otherwise interacts with the other dogs.  We pretty much just leave her alone.  We have been rewarded for that ‘space’ by occasional approaches with sniffs.

At the end of week 2, I started catching her (yup, being handled still not one of Marcy’s favorite things) and making her sit on the couch with us.  Again, only a few minutes, then let her leave.   Forcing Marcy to submit, at least in my opinion, isn’t right, but she still has to get used to being handled.  The compromise is, only once a day, only for a few minutes, then Marcy can leave when she wants.

But there was one little reward for the efforts:  Since the end of week 2, Marcy allows us to pet her in the hallway, by the back door.  It’s the only place our attempts to touch her aren’t met with shrieks, but hey, it’s a start!

We have just finished week 3 and there has been significant improvement.  Well, not necessarily with being handled, but in other ways:

Marcy knows her name.  She will come when called, inside or out – not that we can touch her when she ‘comes’, but still…  Willy took 8 months before he came to his name – and we could touch him!

She knows what “Go Outside” means.  Doesn’t matter what room she’s in, if she hears the words, she runs to the back door.  No more barricading escape routes to aim her for the door, she goes automatically.



She no longer cowars at the back door.  She comes and goes, sometimes even bumping into a human leg, very confidently.  If she is outside and wants to come in, Marcy is very loud and impatient with her scratching of the door.  If she happens to stop in the hallway when she’s coming in – then and only then are we allowed to scritch without protest.

Though she is still skittish about people, she will eat if we stay in the same room.  Move around too much and she will back away from her bowl, but no longer does she run from the room.

Today is day 23 of Marcy’s life in captivity, and it was an exciting one.

This morning, she accompanied The Idiot Group on their desert walk (15 foot line attached to her collar).  Marcy did better on the longer line than the 6 foot leash, though she did buck like a bronco initially.  Since she wants desperately to be with the other dogs, more particularly, her beloved Idiots (Morty and Slugger), we did eventually drop the line and let her drag it.  Sure enough, though skittish, Marcy stayed with the other dogs.  Actually, she did a lot better than I expected her to.   OK, so when we got back to the Waggin’ Wagon, and I got too close, reeling her in to pick her up, she slipped her collar.  We had to pull Slugger out of the Jeep to help catch her.  Major sigh of relief, we did get her back, and the mental note has been made to get a harness for her next Idiot outing.


Marcy and the Idiots at a puddle in the desert.
Marcy and the Idiots at a puddle in the desert.


Point to be made – yup, she followed, yup, she played, yup, she splashed in the mud puddles, nope, she still doesn’t want people to touch her.  Actually, she got so shook up from the ordeal (I tried to put her in the Jeep, she got loose, we had to chase her and catch her), it took her a couple hours before she would go back into the house!


Apparently Marcy is a water dog...  here she is getting ready to attack Slugger.
Apparently Marcy is a water dog… here she is getting ready to attack Slugger. Enlarge the pic to see her running through the water!


So, to sum up:

Marcy is housebroken (we didn’t do it – she came that way).

She knows her name.

She will come when she’s called.

She loves other dogs, especially stupid ones.

She will walk on a long line (15 feet) but as you reel it in to make it shorter, she gets scared and the screaming and fighting begins.

If given the choice, Marcy will hide.  But if forced to be in the same room as the rest of the family, as long as you just leave her alone, she relaxes.

Life is great in Marcy world as long as people don’t touch her.   That being said, she does enjoy chillin’ in the vicinity of people – and by vicinity, at a safe distance out of reach.   The total physical contact we have had with Marcy in 23 days probably doesn’t total 2 hours – but still, she is letting us pet her, by her CHOICE, in the hallway.  There is a cuddly little girl in there, it will just be a while before she comes out.

Despite remaining for the most part, untouchable, Marcy is a great kid.   I understand that there are trainers out there that believe humping your dog to get obedience is the way to a happy relationship, but that isn’t the way to go with Marcy.   She has a beautiful little soul, and it should be cherished.    From my experience with dogs, and I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I’ve worked with a few, allowing them to ‘be’ and guiding them goes so much farther in making them happy and confident than focusing on ‘obedience’ and making demands that only benefit the human.

Anyone that would be interested in welcoming Marcy into their home has to be willing to let her set the pace.

Oh, and one more thing:  A doggie door with Marcy would NOT be a good idea!


7 thoughts on “Cliff Notes of Marcy’s First 3 Weeks

  1. Feral dogs are a real challenge. Looks like you have made amazing progress! It’s wonderful that she has the “Idiot Group” to be part of the pack. She’ll learn faster from them. Good work and good luck. She is blessed to have found you all – even if she does’t know it yet.

    1. Bummer about the Idiot Group is that a requirement for membership is the death of brain cells. Marcy lived on her wiles for a long time, which meant she was a smart kid. Every day we see her getting a wee bit stupider….

  2. I think you are doing fabulous work. If you tried to force anything, the trust you are slowly building would be far more likely to be lost and her confidence lowered. She’ll also ending up learning from the other goof balls in your group and slowly realise that people are not bad or scary things. Well done to you and how wonderful to see her having so much fun with the other dogs on the walk.

    1. Our motto is choice is a better lesson than force. If Marcy chooses to trust, she will be more confident the rest of her life. If ‘forced’ there will be the threat of fear biting, avoiding people if she gets loose (ergo can’t be returned), and a whole host of other negatives.

      If we can say nothing else about our pack, every last one of them, if for some reason they were lost, would go to the first person they see and be delightful, despite their various starts to life. None will ever be afraid. That is what we want for Marcy.

      Question is, will we be able to find a home that will share the same philosophy, or will Marcy become a perpetually scared dog, afraid of everyone and everything outside her home…

  3. I think you have made remarkable progress with Marcy. There has to be someone who shares that philosophy and who will look after her. – On a related matter – what news is there of William? Are you any closer to finding out what happened?

  4. Actually, when I was sitting on a dog bed playing with some of the other dogs, Marcy squirmed in and crawled in my lap! First time ever!

    As far as Willy, we are telling ourselves that the injuries happened the night before, only he didn’t say anything. He is a little illusive at bed time and definitely not a morning puppy when forced to wake up before daylight. But he did eat that morning with no issues. At his recheck, vet said it is possible the injuries were more than a few hours old, mouth injuries being kind of tough to tell. Absent an unknown tussle with the horses the night before, we can’t come up with any other explanation.

    Do you have ANY IDEA how long it takes to do full body scans of 13 dogs several times a day? It is to that point now.

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