I met Roo a year ago today. She has come such a long way. I’m so lucky to have had her assigned to me as a foster dog and then to have had the chance to have adopted her. I love my little girl, and I’m so proud of the big dog heart in her.
Roo will always be a little skittish. There are a lot of things that growing up in confinement did to her that will probably always be evident in her behavior. She learned as a puppy to be alone, and that’s ingrained in her and she still spends a lot of time alone. It can be sad to see, because it’s a reminder of how she wasn’t allowed in a pack as a puppy, how she wasn’t allowed to get close to anyone. She still prefers to sleep alone, and sometimes in hiding, if something has happened to frighten her, the way the fireworks on the Fourth did or the way some noise that only she can hear does. Lights and reflections still bother Roo. She can remain wary of something she saw for days.
But those are small things compared to the improvements over the past year. She might be wary, but she is never depressed any more. In the beginning any small thing could overwhelm her and make her sad for hours on end. No more. Now, she gets over disruptions quickly. If we’re out walking around and a noise or something she sees worries her, she is almost always able to follow my lead. I say, “Oh, that’s just a noise, Rooki Bear - we don’t worry about the noise,” and, with a look at me to confirm, she’s usually done with it and starts walking again. That might not sound like much, but it represents a tremendous change. Rooki is cautious, but the world that used to be nothing but torture for her is now a place she enjoys.
The best thing of all is what a playful dog Roo has become. She’s a big practical joker. She never gets tired of pretending that there are important things to look at and check and smell when it’s time to get in the car. She meanders all over the yard with her nose to the ground, making a show of letting me know that I’m just going to have to wait a minute because she is tending to serious matters. Then, laughing, she will run at full tilt and jump in the car. She does this all the time. It cracks her up, and the fact that I find it so cute just encourages her. I hope it never stops.
And Roo smiles at me all the time and likes to do a few play ducks. This is amazing communication, as far as I’m concerned, my little girl letting me know all sorts of things - from how good she’s feeling to how she sees me as a playmate. She still doesn’t really understand games that go much beyond the gentlest wrestling or tossing a bear around, but it brings her real happiness, and there’s nothing like seeing that.
Fearful dogs are challenging. There are so many times that we wish we could just explain something or show them why they don’t need to be worried. It’s not easy seeing them suffer. But adopting a fearful dog is so worth it. Watching a dog learn to trust, being a part of their recovery from the damage done to them, and eventually being the person they love, is a powerful experience that I find myself marveling at every day. Every bit of the challenge is met with the immeasurable reward of seeing a spirit restored.
A year. It’s hard to believe. We’ll keep you posted.