In early September, I moved out to the country and almost immediately spotted a story online about a recently-rescued little collie boy. He was around 2 years old, weighed only EIGHT kilos, and looked terrified in the photos. I got in tough with the rescuers and over the next 3 weeks kept checking in with them to see how he was. I finally went out to meet him and, at first, didn’t think it would be a good match. He pancaked when I arrived, and kept trying to belly-crawl away. I went down on my belly and crawled towards his paws. He stared at me for a moment, then reached out a paw and laid it across my arm. Within a few minutes, I was getting little kisses and his tail had wagged a few times. He looked so little and timid. I have never seen a dog’s cheekbones so pronounced before.
He was brought out to my house a week later. He settled in fairly well, but it has been a serious learning curve for both of us. What did I get myself into?!? Not only is it my first rescue dog, but it’s a pretty hefty one at that! He is so sweet and gentle with me, but with any other person who approaches me or the house, he is fierce. I mean, growling, salivating, tail up, hunched over…it isn’t pretty. At night the fireplace sets him off, reflections in windows, shadows on the walls. When I dare approach him to try to calm him down, he stops straight away and licks me, then goes back to his growling and attack mode. The poor dog. I imagine whoever had him since he was a puppy just left him in a shed somewhere. Forgotten. He had no idea that these things won’t hurt him, and always seems to be bracing for something bad.
Mid-way through the month, I was overwhelmed by all of the barking and noise in the house. He was constantly so stressed out. Nothing I did would calm him down once he got a fright. He is terrified of cars, steam coming out of cups of tea, the fireplace, other dogs, kids (big-time!), and once he got a fright when he saw my backpack sitting on the kitchen counter. The rescue centre manager told me ‘you need to be the ALPHA! Yell over him!’ I’m not much of a yeller, more of a laid-back ‘hey let’s sort this out over a nice cup of tea’ kind of person. Which does NOT work with dogs. I found a real weakness in myself in this regard! Some people have that ‘way’ with dogs. They have the non-verbal leader-of-the-pack thing down. Not me. And I hate yelling at him. It works, but I feel like I’m cheating somehow. I get the feeling he doesn’t see me so much as the leader, but more of a puppy-sister. Which makes sense, because I am usually down on my belly with him, playing. Again: “Learning Curve”!
He isn’t allowed upstairs at night, but I was a bit silly and let him sleep at the foot of my bed on the first night, so since then he has been desperate to get back into my room at night. He woke me up twice that first night, both times I was laughing because he was so cute. The first time he managed to squeeze himself between my bed and the wall. I turned the light on and his little head popped up over the edge of the mattress ‘Oh, hi! I found you! Let’s play!’ and the second time, he did the same thing except managed to get stuck under the bed, bum out. His tail was wagging the whole time; he was so confident I’d rescue him. The little rascal. I imagine that is the first human bedroom he’s ever been inside. So exciting for him!
He waits for me where the gate is on the landing of the stairs every morning. I hop over and pause, and then we go down together, step by step. He never goes ahead of me. He is such a loyal boy.
In the last few weeks I have made him fresh mackerel from my locality, lots of eggs, and peanut butter. Oh he loooooves peanut butter! And he is looking beautiful! The cover photo is from one month ago. And this is now – October 2020:
I know I will only have him for one more week, and the thought of packing him up and bringing him to his next foster home, along with all his little toys – that he finally learned how to play with! – is heart-breaking. This is a real lesson for me in loving and letting go gently. It is so tempting to grab on to him and say ‘you’re mine forever now!’ but I know we are not a ‘forever’ match. He needs someone with more experience with tough rescue dogs. I have used every tool in my toolbox. I think he is much better than when he arrived here. I wish I could do more for him but this is the way it is. I will give him a big cuddle and breakfast on his last day with me, and make sure he knows that he is going to a great place next.
Here is a little video of him sleeping soundly on my chest. He was unsure of the couch at first. After a few days of glancing warily at it and not approaching it, I just lifted him up onto my lap. Within a few minutes, he was asleep. It must be so exhausting being on high alert all the time.