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Ozzie's One-Year Gotchaversary

Posted 11/30/2021

It is a bitter and blustery night in November 2020. The Boy and I are sitting in an Uber outside a cargo building at the Toronto International Airport. Shortly before midnight, we are waved up to the cargo doors and I am handed a shivering ball of fur. When I adopted Ozzie from the Dominican Republic, online, I had no idea he was this small and waif like. The first thought I have is that this is an unkempt rat they have handed me; but no, this is indeed my new dog.

Ozzie was adopted from the Dogs and Cats of the Dominican Republic (DCDR).  I was told he and his three brothers were living wild in a rural part of the DR. The aunties who looked after him at the rescue said he was very shy, laid by himself a lot, and would run when you approached him. I knew adopting Ozzie was going to be a challenge, but I also knew that I had the time and patience to work with him. Oz was caught at the age of seven months. He arrived in Canada when he was nine months old. This is a record of our first year together.


November 2020 - Our first two weeks



Nov 14 - After Ozzie is in my arms, the Boy and I climb back into the Uber and head for the hotel. Ozzie smells like urine from peeing in his kennel on his flight to Canada. He has literally been taken off the plane, checked by a vet, and handed to me. Unfortunately, we still have another flight to take before we are home. But at least Ozzie is now with his family.



Nov 15 - Ozzie's first morning is no comfort to him. I have to take his kennel apart to get him out and put a leash on. He does not walk on a leash so I carry him outside and set him on the grass. He walks a few steps and lays down. He will not go to the bathroom. Back in the room, he eats a couple pieces of kibble from my hand but does not drink. A few hours later I have to say goodbye as I hand him off to an airport employee and board our plane bound for Edmonton. I am so relieved to be reunited with him when we land a few hours later. I have written about the whole process for flying with Ozzie in Flying Cargo.



Nov 16 - Home! Ozzie is crated every night for the first few weeks. I still have to take his kennel apart to get him out. During the day he stays under the kitchen table. At times, he crawls into the bed beside the table, but he will dive back under if we enter the room. I am able to hand feed him kibble, but he still refuses to drink. For quite a few days, I add water to his kibble to keep him somewhat hydrated. I carry him outside and set him down in our dog run but he refuses to go to the bathroom. He peed in his kennel on the flight to Edmonton, so I knew his bladder is working, but he is too scared to go here.



Nov 17 - This is a great day! Ozzie finally pees and poops in the dog run after holding it for two days! Also, I place a blanket on the floor in the kitchen and sit down; he comes out from under the table and lays down by me. This is the first time he shows any interest in being near me.

Nov 18 - Ozzie comes out from under the table to investigate the kitchen. He is curious about the house but terrified. He has never been in a house, never seen a TV, never been on stairs.

Nov 19 – Ozzie walks UP the stairs to the second floor on his own. This is the first time he is not carried. He will panic and run to his bed if we get too close but actually follows me a bit when I walk around.



Nov 20 – My little dog walks DOWN the stairs on his own today! Not only that, but he comes down the stairs looking for me. I also spy him playing with a toy for the first time. He was, and still is, most comfortable in our bedroom near his crate, which is his safe spot.

Nov 24 – Ozzie has been eating and drinking from a bowl for a couple of days, as long as I sit near him for support. This day, he finally drinks water without me being in the room. He also jumps up on the couch. Prior to this, I would pick him up and place him there.

Nov 25 – He is starting to carry his toys around, and even takes them onto the couch to chew.

Nov 30 – Ozzie jumps up onto the couch to sit between the Girl and I. This is a huge moment as it requires a lot of trust to have a 'threat' on either side of him.


December 2020


December 2nd is a monumental day! Oz and I go for our first walk out of the yard. He is responding to the leash fairly well, and I hope at this point he will just run home if he escapes from his leash. He is a different dog outside! His confidence goes up and he seems the happiest since I got him. We go for many walks after that. Even now, I take him out for short walks four times a day to go to the bathroom.



After about a month, Ozzie seems most content when he is laying with us on the couch, covered with a blanket. 



December is when he begins to trust a bit more, and some of his goofiness starts to show.



He is very spoiled on his first Christmas and is happy to join us on a Christmas Eve walk.


January 2021



In early January, we take Ozzie for his first ride in a vehicle since the drive home from the airport. We are heading out to the bush for his first offline hike; trailing a six foot leash of course! He shakes and shakes and hides his head under my arm near the console. Then he throws up all over that and my jacket. He has not thrown up in a vehicle since but still shakes for most of the rides and often hides his head. 

A few days later, we have an incident in the park where he is charged by an off-leash Labradoodle and its twelve-year-old owner. This incident steals his enjoyment of going for walks and it is weeks before he can be outside and hear people talking without crawling on his belly back to our yard. You can read about this incident in Off-Leash Dogs.



Ozzie starts to play fight with me. Every morning we have a wrestle session where he jumps on and off the bed, 'growling' and playfully pawing at me. He refuses to play if anyone else is in the room. In the future, I will need to force him to rely less on me and more on other people. T, the Girl, and the Boy have all started walking and feeding Oz occasionally...



... but he is still my dog; or at least I am his human!


February 2021



We spend the rest of the winter just trying to get through the cold. Ozzie learns how to walk in boots, with a sweater and a jacket, and wearing a toque. He is so tolerant of these things. As long as he is introduced to new things calmly, and without the chance to avoid them, he usually accepts most challenges I present him with. I expose Oz to new sights and surfaces, and encourage him to hop up on playground equipment, benches, baseball stands, etc. I try not to give him tests that he will not be able to do. Every challenge he completes boosts his confidence.



It is so much fun to see his personality shine. Of course, you can only see him relax in his comfort areas and with his people.


March 2021



We have a warm March and I am able to do a few runs outside and bring Ozzie with me. I strap his leash to my waist and away we go. He is a great running companion. I need to do this more with him. He is also a great companion for just chilling or watching TV!



I am teaching Ozzie to wait and ask for his rewards. His 'ask' is eye contact. When I put out his food, open a door to go outside, climb into the truck ahead of him, etc.; I wait for him to make eye contact before giving him the okay. This is helping a lot with our bonding and also gets him looking to me when he is unsure of something. 



Oz is starting to bond more with T. Napping is one of their favourite joint activities.


April 2021



After so many months of choosing to sleep in his crate or under the bed, Ozzie is finally deciding to sleep on our bed. If we move too much he will growl and jump down. He tends to leap up and growl when we move a hand under the blankets and accidently touch him through it. This is when we are in bed or on the couch. It is a behavior that we cannot figure out. I am not sure that he knows it is us moving, and he may be scared of whatever he thinks is trying to grab him.  I suspect this is a deep-rooted behaviour from his early, feral lifestyle. He has never shown any amount of aggression other than these little growls.



Our new favourite thing is going for bike rides! Ozzie LOVES this. He has a special harness that I use only for running beside the bike, and he starts whining in anticipation as soon as I bring it out. I explain how I use a training collar with his flat collar or his harness in Safety Collar for Nervous Dogs. He is a young dog with a lot of energy and this is the best way to tire him out.


May 2021



After many rides in the truck, Oz is still not comfortable. He is especially concerned when I drive and he has no lap to sit on. He actually rode in this half-stand half-crouch position for quite awhile!



May 14 was Ozzie's six-month gotchaversary. We celebrated this with a big bone to chew on and some time laying on the grass. These first six months were where we saw Ozzie's biggest gains in confidence and learning. I suspect he will always be cautious and slow to trust, but he has made leaps and bounds so far.


June 2021



Oz has settled in to summer quickly. I am sure he thinks that he will never see winter again since the cold weather left. Poor innocent little lamb!!  Every morning we sit in the early sun and soak it up. Although he can be quite independent, Ozzie usually prefers to be with his family.


Sporting a purple mohawk for summerSporting a purple mohawk for summer


July 2021



I start back to work, part-time, in July. This is a transition for Oz. Often he will spend the day on our bed or in his crate. It seems that when I am home he is more willing to be with the rest of the family, compared to when I am gone. At least he accepts them as providers and knows he has to listen to them, even if he does not seek them out.


August 2021



It is frustrating how fast the summer goes by. I am excited to find a life jacket to fit Ozzie, but we do not find time to take him kayaking. I have taken him into pools in the river to train him to swim. He can swim, but prefers not to. I have made it my goal to teach him to enjoy swimming next summer.


September 2021



The changes in behavior are harder to notice now, but there are still improvements. A couple of times he sneaks into the bathroom when I am in there, and then sneaks back out again. Any time that he voluntarily enters a room, that he has previously avoided, is a win. We have occasional visitors who know not to approach Oz. Eventually, he will cautiously check them out. If COVID ever takes a step back, I will work more on socializing him with strangers.


October 2021



Ozzie has developed an odd habit. He brings us a toy and whines. He holds it in his mouth and gets right in our faces with it. It seems his goal is to get us to acknowledge his toy and tell him how awesome it is. Once we do that, he stops whining and takes it back to the bedroom. He also rarely leaves his toys anywhere but the bedroom. Sometimes, to amuse him, we will bring all his toys to his bed in the kitchen. He will then carry them, one by one, back to the bedroom. This game does not seem to stress him out, but he will not stop until they are all back 'home' again.


 Nov 2020 - Nov 2021


November 15, 2020 - First "Walk"                November 14, 2021         


This past year Ozzie gained almost 10 pounds. He has grown a good amount of hair in the oddest places! Check out those shaggy sideburns! He has learned come, sit, lay down, hop up, and wait; and understands 'are you hungry?', 'who's here?' and 'wanna go outside'. He has not had one bathroom accident in the house! Ever! He has never chewed up or wrecked anything he was not allowed to, except my vacuum cord that one time! He is a good dog. He is a comic. He is an enigma.



The little victories over the past year have been amazing. I have read about the other DCDR dogs that were adopted into Canada, who arrived on the same charter plane. Those dogs seem far more relaxed and outgoing. They accepted their people and their new lives so much faster than Oz. I jumped for joy when I could finally put his collar and leash on without having to follow him to his crate to do it. It was amazing the first time I heard him bark! He was protecting us from the big scary dog in the mirror! I was so excited when he lifted his head up to look around for the first time while we were out for a drive. So many seemingly insignificant things that most dog owners would take for granted. I am lucky to have contact with the people who adopted two of Ozzie's brothers. Both dogs are similar in behavior to Ozzie and it is nice to touch base with them every once in a while. There are pictures of Doug and Shilo in my post What Breed Am I? - Part 1.


Hiding under the bed because I tried to teach him 'rollover' and the pressure of me asking him for something he did not understand was too muchHiding under the bed because I tried to teach him 'rollover' and the pressure of me asking him for something he did not understand was too much


When comfortable, Ozzie is goofy, playful and just plain weird. Unfortunately, only a handful of us get to see this side of him. I am glad that I have given you all a glimpse of who he really is. Ozzie is the oddest dog I have ever met and I feel so blessed to be this strange little guy's person. Here's to many more years together!


 Happy One-Year Gotchaversary Ozzie!!



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