You know that dog fight I wrote about a few weeks ago? The one where I nearly broke down? Well, it seems to have been a turning point for Merlin.
For the days leading up to the fight, Merlin was friendly but was also obviously a bit cranky. He just seemed like that cranky old man who might snap at any moment. And snap he did. Poor Tommy!
Anyway, treating him after the fight was a bit of a stressful situation. We ended up having to muzzle him and hold him down while we cleaned out his ear. He growled and fought the muzzle for about a minute, but once he realized that fighting wasn't helping things he calmed down. I was worried that once we took the muzzle off he'd come back fighting, but I was wrong. He stayed calm, wagged his tail, and just relaxed a little.
The next day, I was worried about how he might be. If his ear was sore, would he be weird? But he wasn't. He was very happy...very very happy. He even let me inspect his ear without hesitation. I keep waiting for him to become cranky again, but it's been two weeks and he seems to be happier than ever. When I come out to feed him, he gets excited and jumps up and down. His whole body wiggles as I enter his kennel.
Normally, I would feed him, leave him alone, and come back after he was done eating to retrieve his bowl and love on him a bit, but today he seemed so happy I decided to spend the time with him. I fed him, and let him eat in peace, but as he was eating I cleaned his kennel. He didn't seem to have any problems with my proximity (although to be safe I fed him in a corner of his kennel that would make it easier for him to ignore me). When he was done, he tore off through the yard. Then he ran up to the house, opened the back door (which doesn't latch well) and ran upstairs. I called to Hans that Merlin was inside, and then I heard Hans laughing as he greeted Merlin. I called Merlin back, he ran downstairs and out the door.
Merlin stopped just past the door and looked at me as if to say, "Aren't you coming?" I went outside with him and brought Cody with me. I cleaned the yard a bit as I watched Merlin and Cody having a great time.
I'm still not letting Tommy and Merlin interact. Merlin isn't great at play. He tries, but his body language can sometimes be confusing. Cody can handle it, but Tommy can't. Plus, Merlin is more relaxed around Cody anyway, and I'd rather not take that risk with Tommy again.
I know that in the scheme of things, two weeks is nothing. Merlin could just be happier about the slightly cooler nights. I'd like to think, however, that Merlin has realized a few things. 1) He's not as tough as he thought he was. 2) Even with as cranky as he can get, we're still going to take care of him. It's probably just wishful thinking, but I'm going to keep on wishing anyway.