I had the most wonderful day today! After going to church with Mom & Dad (and happy Father's Day again, Dad!), I brought Alba over to my parents' house to spend some time playing in the back yard. Now, Alba is usually shy and timid, and frankly dominated by her sister Alice. She tends to cower in the back of her crate, and will only come out with a lot of coaxing (which sometimes involves dragging--it feels mean, but when you need to get the dog to eat or go outside, you do what you have to!). Not surprisingly, when Mom & I came to my house to pick her up, she was not happy to be going anywhere!
Side note--Mom and I decided that since Alba is so timid, it would be better to bring just her rather than both puppies. We felt that it would be less traumatic for her to get used to a new place without having to contend with her over-eager sibling. (Another side note: please don't think that I don't love Alice too! She's energetic, happy, cute, silly, and all those things a puppy is supposed to be. I just feel sorry for them both sometimes, because I think that they're hampered by each other's behavior & their relationship.)Anyway, we got Alba to M&D's house, and I walked (partially dragged) Alba from her crate to the back yard. For those who haven't seen it, M&D have a nice big fenced-in back yard; perfect for dogs to run around in. (Rachel & I have a back yard, but it's not fully fenced-in, so the puppies can't run free.) By the time we got from the car to the gate, Alba was walking normally, sniffing the air, the grass, etc. And by the time we got through the gate, she was ready to start exploring.
We brought her crate into the yard so she would have her "safety zone" nearby. For the first 20 minutes or so, she ran all around the yard, sniffing, marking her new territory, and exploring. It was so much fun to watch! She was bright-eyed, alert, and perky, dancing around the yard, and obviously having a ball. After a bit, I led her to the water bowl we had put out next to her crate so she'd feel totally comfortable. She went back into her crate for a while, worn out from these new experiences, but seeming content. When Dad got home a bit later, we all sat out in the yard near Alba's crate, letting her get used to these new people, their smells and their voices. After a while of that, I brought her back out of the crate. She was a bit shy at first, as she always is around new people (she hadn't met Dad before), but she quickly got back to running around and exploring. It was such a joy to watch her acting like the puppy she is!
The next big milestone was when she VOLUNTARILY came up to Dad and sniffed his toes. It was really exciting, because Alba usually won't approach a new person at all, and she seems especially wary of men. Before too long, she had taken a handful of food from Dad, and not long after that, she was letting him pet her. I was so excited and happy that I was nearly in tears. I imagine I felt like parent watching their baby take her first step or speak his first word. We spent a couple of hours like this, enjoying Alba's company and watching her blossom into a normal puppy. She discovered a game with Mom tossing her bits of kibble, which she would then snuffle up from the grass. Mom decided that if she were to adopt Alba, she'd name her Snuffle (for Snuffleupagus). She let both Mom and Dad pet her, and ate from both of their hands. This all had a huge impact on her socialization. She now knows she is safe around other people (at least around my parents) and in other places. I think it will have a very good influence on her in her future home.
There was so much cuteness in the afternoon, it was overwhelming! Once she was all worn out--but still being brave and sociable!--we got her back in her crate, where she lay down without cowering in the back, and I brought her home. She made huge progress today, and we all had fun. I spent a lot of time clapping, bouncing, and giggling as I watched her brave new frontiers of puppyhood. It was a wonderful day for us all.
We got a couple of adorable pictures of Alba at the end of the evening, which I'll post just as soon as Dad emails them to me.
Update: Here are the pictures. They're from when Alba went back in her crate after she had spent a few hours out with us.
Here's Alba curled up--at the front of her crate!--peering out at the world.
And here she is with her chin resting on her toy. When I saw this, I just about melted! It was even cuter in person :) She's so worn out from her afternoon of playing that she's about to fall asleep.