That leaves just our special-needs cat, MOUSEY (Mr. Wobbles).* When I arrived the morning shift had him all taken care of (food, water, clean box, attention) and in a good mood. He squirmed, as usual, when I put the leash on, but unlike previous walks, which in truth were mostly carries, he spent a lot of this one on his own four feet, exploring. He’s learned the basic rules about not trying to duck under the shelving, and proved that when put down anywhere on the west side of the store knows how to find his way back to the cat-room.
Where he did best was the far (East) side of the store, where he became deeply interested in the big dog beds, those giant flat cushions on the shelves. He thought that if he could get up on these there was no end of interesting places behind them and on either side he could explore. He thought I was unreasonable in not letting him climb up in there, no matter how many times he asked, or how politely. His persistence eventurally paid off when I let him get on one of the large flat cardboard boxes (containing I think a collapsable dog-cage) and kept a close watch (and sometimes hand) on him while he gloried in his safe secret place.
We also went down to the training room, where I closed the door and let him roam around at will. He immediately started mewing, just like he used to on previous walks, but stopped when he settled for a while in the far corner, from which he cd see anything entering the room (i.e., trying to sneak up on him). After a while he came over and I put him in my lap, where he drifted off to sleep.
All in all he had two walks, separated by about ten minutes back in the room. He did better on the second one — warmed up a bit, perhaps? Having someone in the room to let him back inside in case he panicked was a big help.
Once back in the room the second time he went back into his cage, where he expressed no interest in any game I offered him, not even his orange string. I did work on his ears a bit, which he seemed to like. Offered some catnip, he played it cool for a bit, then surrendered to it and rolled belly-up.
As my fellow volunteer said, it’s hard to memember how he was so traumatized when he arrived that he needed a cave of blankets to hide in. He’s come a long way in just a month.
P.S.: According to the previous shift, this morning someone in a wheelchair came into the room to see the cats (Mousey), and apparently he was interested in her wheelchair rather than frightened by it. If I remember rightly, his personal history said that his previous owner used a wheelchair, so perhaps if conjured up some good memories for him.
P.P.S. He came fairly close to several dogs of several sizes in the course of his two walks. He was not bothered at all, when held, by the quiet and well-behaved dogs, but didn’t at all like the barky ones.
*Mousey has Cerebellar Hypoplasia, which means he has difficulty jumping and loses some control of his back legs when frightened; he also trembles when stressed. It's not a progressive condition, though, so he's fine as long as he has step-stools and the like. Knowledge that he'd have trouble getting to safety if anything attacked him is probably a big factor in his fear of unknown places.