A couple of weeks ago, my coworker Kristin noticed a stray dog outside her office window. I went out to say hello, and found that the dog was so afraid that he’d freeze anytime he saw a person, even far away. I stood still for five minutes or so, and he stood still too, just terrified of me. I felt awful for him but went back inside, hoping he’d go away and we wouldn’t see him again. I didn’t think there was anything I could do.
He was back again the next day, and was just as scared. I called the animal control place in Little Rock but they didn’t have anyone they could send to catch him. And then it was the weekend.
He was back on Monday, out near the woods behind our parking lot. A little skinny, and with his tail tucked so firmly between his legs that it curled underneath his body. He came a little closer. On Tuesday, I drove through BK and ordered a bag of burgers. I got bacon cheeseburgers because I figured they’d smell good and they were only a dollar. Sure enough, he would walk toward me a bit to get a burger I’d thrown toward him. Another coworker, Deborah, gave me an unused chicken salad sandwich, and when I took it to him after work, he actually came up to within twenty feet or so. I noticed a bloody wound on his head. I called myself a sucker for lost causes.
“I’d have to be brave enough to get into a car with a large dog with anxiety issues and a head wound. Hmm.”
On Wednesday, Deborah and I had gyros for lunch, and I brought half of mine back to my friend. I tossed a few pieces of meat into the grass and he crawled up to me to get it from the ground. I was amazed. After work, he crawled up to me, on his belly again, to take some bologna slices from my hand. He licked my fingers.
On Thursday, this dog who had a week before been unable to move when he saw a person, actually got into the back of the Subaru. I shut the door. And at that point I was kind of stuck: I could take the poor thing to the vet, or to a shelter – but I’d have to be brave enough to get into a car with a large dog with anxiety issues and a head wound. Hmm.
I got in the car, and just sat for a few minutes. Then I started the car, talking to him in the same voice I’d been using all week. “Hey, friend. I just started the car. It’s going to be okay.” Then I started driving, and he just laid down and drooled on himself and listened to NPR. I checked him into the shelter, where he was so afraid he couldn’t walk – one person had to haul on a leash while a second person picked up his hindquarters and carried him. As afraid as he was, he didn’t even growl when the shelter person checked his teeth. We put him in a kennel and I said goodbye and left.
When I checked on him Friday morning, the news wasn’t good: my friend was healthy and clean, with no fleas or ticks or worms, but he was still completely terrified. “He’s going to have to be in a foster home for awhile – he’s not adoptable like this.” One phone call later, and Bryan and I agreed that he could spend the holidays at our house.
So I picked him up and brought him home with me, and that’s where he’s been for the past week. The shelter sent him with a new collar and tag with their number engraved on one side and and ours on the other. They sent him food and medicine. We hung a last-minute stocking for him. Even beat-down stray dogs should have a warm bed and a new toy at Christmastime.
Several friends stopped by to pet Foster Dog in those first few days. He was warming up, but he’d been treated SO badly that we thought it might help him to have lots of opportunities to see kindness from different people. It was remarkable to watch him – one morning he approached a new friend with his hindquarters shaking from fear; later that same day another person stopped by and he was able to approach with caution but no shaking. It was if he really WANTED to be okay. He was working hard to be okay.
I’ve been watching the wound on Foster Dog’s head. At first it seemed like just a big bleedy place, but then I saw something in the middle, sort of working its way out. Finally yesterday I was able to get him to hold still long enough for me to pull out what’s been stuck there. It’s a piece of bone. Did someone hit this dog in the head so hard that it broke his skull? It’s the only explanation I can come up with.
It’s amazing to me that this dog that’s been so afraid can forgive so quickly. Foster’s been here with us for seven days, and the fearful dog I saw out Kristin’s window is almost totally gone. He greets people at the door with a doggy smile and a big furry tail wag. He’s comfortable with people, even groups of people, here at our house. He’s good with the cats, good with little kids, good with visiting dogs. He’s clearly just a puppy, and he’s playing with Hayduke as if he’s always been happy, though I know that’s not true. He’s walking on a leash, though not in a very organized way. He’s learning “come” and “sit” and “paw” and “lie down”.
Foster’s going to be okay. He’ll find a family to love him, because he really is a lovable creature, and I’m glad we were able to be part of his story. If you ever doubt what a little kindness can do, think about our Foster Dog. I guess it’s not so bad to be a sucker for lost causes, because sometimes they aren’t lost causes at all.
It’s Monday, January 14th. Our sweet foster dog got to spend some time last week with an older lady we know. Though they liked each other a lot, we all decided that he was just too big and too playful for her house. So today, our friends the Vires sent their ‘adoption paperwork’ to the animal shelter, and they came here to pick him up, and now he’s happily settling into his new home. He’ll live in the country, with three teenagers and a dog and a cat to keep him company. Foster Dog’s going to have a good life, and it feels good to know that we helped him get there.