Two years ago a very shy, frightened, Shetland Sheepdog named Stormy came to live with us in Saint Paul. That has changed. This is an image from an hour or two ago, when we had our “morning snuggle.”
Two years and a month ago, my heart shriveled to a small rock when my dog Maisie passed away. Old, arthritic, and frail. She’d had a tough run, but was a loving friend who was always at my side, sleeping on my bed, and looking for a pet. What a dramatic change when Stormy came to our house: she wouldn’t even be in the same room with me for the first three months. I only touched her when I closed all the doors and bribed her with food. She was truly fearful of me.
Over the past two years we’ve made a new life for her, and for us. There are special considerations in loving a rescue dog, the largest of which is the urge to flee. Open doors mean escape from fear, and the risk is that even after two years she will get spooked by something and keep on running. The fact that she’s loved, and loves us, will not stop that instinct from kicking in and causing us to lose her. There are days and weeks where she just makes herself scarce, hiding in the bathroom upstairs. At first we looked for a pattern, but then realized that it was just her way of dealing with some stress trigger that we’d never recognize. We call her, ask her to join us, and laugh at her peering down from the top of the stairs. It’s okay.
The biggest change (aside from her weight – bribery is fattening) in the girl is her interest in affection. After about three months we were able to give her brief stomach rubs. A year went by and there was more casual contact, pats on the head, rump rubs, etc. Then about six months ago we moved to a new level: seeking love and delivering the same.
She regularly comes over when I’m at the computer and levitates to put her paws on the arm of the chair or my thigh. She will perch there for long periods just letting me rub her back and head. The love in her eyes is quite clear. No doubt in my skeptical mind that this dog is in love with us as well.
In the last three months the morning snuggle has developed into a ritual. Once I brush my teeth, I go back to the bedroom to grab my stuff and there she is: on the edge of the bed, grin on her face, waiting for me to kneel down and bury my face in her chest while I massage her belly and back. She would stay there for hours if I had the time. If I’m in a rush she’s upset: that time is now important to her as well. So I carve out a few minutes no matter what and give her the proper love and affection.
It has been a growth experience for all of us in coming to terms with loss; hers and ours. She’d lost two homes and we’d lost two dogs in a year. All of us needed some time to heal and gain trust. There are rarely harsh words with her: she’s very smart. A simple no and a gentle brush on the nose to pull her away from her obsessive chewing usually work. Sometimes she just looks at me like I’m an idiot for even suggesting she change her course. Maybe I am.
But now that Stormy has been here two years today, I’m an idiot for her. The girl has captured my heart.
Thanks, Stormy. You’re a great family member.