Four Little Magical Paws

, , , , | Hopeless | November 27, 2018

My husband and I decided to adopt a dog. We picked one out right before our wedding and took her home about a week or so after. She had been abused in the past — beaten, shot at, etc. — and had behavioral problems that came out once she got comfortable with us. While at the shelter, she’d been too scared to “show her true colors.”

Our vet directed us to a behaviorist who helped us out, and literally changed my life, how I viewed dogs, and my relationship with them.

Fast forward a year. We decided to go ahead and adopt a second dog. This time I was determined to pursue the passion that I’d acquired for training and helping needy rescues, and I knew I wanted a special dog. While I loved our dog, she had been my husband’s pick, and I wanted to choose this time.

I set my sights on an 11-year-old mutt, who had been in the shelter for more than ten years. The shelter had a pretty awful past, where they’d basically abused their dogs and refused volunteers, and that had only changed within the past year or so — now it’s literally, hands down, one of the best in the country — but it meant that for about nine years he had no human contact and was severely neglected.

Needless to say, he was a basket case. I spent four months dedicating almost every free minute and weekend I had either visiting him at the shelter or at a course I was taking to be able to offer him the therapy and help he needed. I was finally able to take him home, and shortly after, I passed my course and was certified to work with dogs.

If I thought my life changed before, he was the final straw. My trainer and behaviorist both have called him one of their most difficult cases, and he isn’t one of those miraculous “changed overnight” dogs, but he is my absolute pride and joy and sunshine and everything good in this world. He sucks up every minute of my free time, but that’s all right. He has separation anxiety that prevents me from being able to leave the house without either finding a babysitter or arranging for him to be taken care of — no hopping out to the store to grab that one thing I need for dinner for me — and poses a huge problem to every aspect of my life, but I wouldn’t give him up for the world.

It’s such a joy to see such a needy dog that doesn’t know how to function properly go from terrified to entire body wagging with joy when he greets me, and proudly walking by my side on walks instead of running around in terrified circles trying to drag me back to the shelter. Everybody who’s seen his progress keeps telling me that he’s an entirely different dog, and he just makes me so proud. I have crippling depression at times, and he’s the only thing that keeps me going on a really bad day. I might be able to convince myself that the world would be a better place without me, but then I remember those four little paws that panic and freak and forget all the things he’s learned when I’m not around.

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