She was a blond, with huge deep brown eyes that looked directly into mine until I wanted to cry out, “It’s all right. Everything’s going to be all right.”
Then she snuggled onto my lap and under my left arm and reached up to lick my face. I was new to her, a temporary foster human.
At first she trembled. She knew something was up. I kept stroking her gently, and within 10 minutes the trembling stopped. She’s was a toy cuddle-lover, probably not an inexpensive shelter dog. Her pile of “possessions” said that she had been loved.
It’s obvious that she understood many English words: stay, ok, no, her name, good girl, walk. She obeyed them, but when she was walking on leash she insisted on going or stopping where and when she wanted to go or stop. When I had other ideas, I had to insist, “no, this way,” several times. Then she would give in and trot happily on down the road or path.
Push came to shove when she found one of my socks on the floor. She picked it up, took it to her favorite chair and started chewing it. When I reached for it, she growled. “No,” I said firmly. “This is my sock.” She growled again as I took it, so I tapped her on the nose and said, “You don’t growl at me. This is my sock.”
She collapsed into a sulk as I put the sock away. When I came back, we made up with a snuggle that ended with her rolling over onto her back—the first clear signal that she had now accepted me as alpha in our new pack. We had a great game of chase the ball, complete with play growling, but no indication of biting whenever I took the ball away for another throw.
The alpha position is essential for humans who want dogs as good family members. You don’t have to shout or strike out, but you must be firm. No waffling. Mean what you say, or don’t say it. Tolly was obviously very intelligent and very emotional. In the end she obviously needed a strong person to be consistent, so she could safely release her loving nature.