This has been a week for new things! So many of the things I have been reading about puppy mill survivors have said that the presence of other dogs is not just helpful, but essential, for recovery. The more dogs the better! (You can see where this is going!) Kira definitely gains confidence from having Obi around and she watches him closely to learn what to do. Obi wants to interact with Kira very badly and he has recently taken to standing outside her crate with a toy in his mouth and crying. At other times he licks her ears and tries to crawl in the little space under the steps with her.
I began to think that more dog-dog interaction would be good for Obi and a help for Kira, so after much thought, I adopted another dog. We welcomed Mocha into our home this past weekend. The woman who was fostering her brought her to our house and all of the introductions went well. The deal was clinched for me when Kira came out of her crate while a stranger was in the house (!) to sniff and meet Mocha. I immediately had happy visions of tiny Mocha curled up in Kira’s crate with her. That hasn’t happened yet, but adding Mocha to the house has definitely improved the dynamics for everyone.
Obi now has a more active playmate and companion and Kira seems more comfortable, relaxed and engaged with more dog activity going on. She spends more time outside of her crate and you can really see how strongly she is drawn to the other dogs and how much she wants to be part of the pack..
Whereas Obi is very laid back, mellow and respectful of everyone’s space; Mocha is a friendly, bouncy, affectionate kind of dog who loves to be touched and assumes that everyone wants to be loving and touching her all of the time. Kira finds this bounciness and speeding around the yard and house to be irresistible. She stands alert, tail up, eyes bright and watches Mocha’s every move.
Some highlights this week:
- This seems small, but I assure you, it is not: When I say Kira’s name, she makes direct eye contact, ears forward, and once moved a couple steps in my direction. She sometimes cocks her head to the side as if to say, “Yes? You were saying?”
- She is feeling more comfortable outside of her crate. Sometimes when the dogs come in from outside Kira doesn’t run back to her crate, but stands around in the kitchen or living room with the other two dogs! When she does go back to her crate, it is rarely at a full run anymore, but often at a very slow, ambling, walk. (dare I say, almost reluctant?) When I come home from work, she comes out with a happy expression and will sometimes even stand around in the kitchen because she knows we will be going outside soon.
- Last night when I got out of the shower I heard banging noises, so I quietly peeked into the living room to see Kira standing in the middle of the room looking utterly delighted and watching Mocha race back and forth on the couch and dive under the blankets. Then they played a little game where Kira went to the end of the couch and rested her head on the arm and Mocha would race over, flip upside down and paw Kira’s face and then run away. They stopped when they saw me peeking and Kira went back to her crate.
- Every night, I lay with Kira, next to her crate, and pet her and talk to her. She is relaxed and happy at these times and will lift her back leg so I can rub her belly. Twice now she has reached out her paw and put it on my hand when I stopped petting her because she wants me to continue. After the first time, I thought maybe it was wishful thinking and that the paw on my hand didn’t mean anything. So the second night she did it, I didn’t respond, and she tapped her paw on my hand again and leaned her head down and licked me. She WANTS to be petted! Such a happy moment!!
My last post mentioned that I was beginning to bring her out into the living room on leash every night to brush her, but after the second day, she began to shrink toward the back of her crate whenever I approached, so I stopped doing that. I want to make sure that positive things happen when I approach her crate.
Every night we have a treat time. I get the bag of little bite-sized treats and sit on the floor and the dogs gather around me in a circle. Obi lays down, Mocha sits and Kira stands. I go around the circle and say each one’s name and then give them their treat. Kira stretches her head forward and takes her treat gently from my hand when she hears her name. For many weeks she would not come close and I had to throw her treat to her. Every night I threw the treat a little bit closer to me. When it was too close for comfort, she would go back to her crate and lay down and leave it on the floor. When she finally got comfortable coming close enough to join the circle it still took quite a while for her to be willing to take a treat directly from my hand.
We continue taking tiny steps forward. Some days it can be very sad and it is easy to feel discouraged. Some days I cry because my heart hurts for her. Her pictures can’t capture how truly beautiful she is. Pictures don’t show you the unbearably sweet, soft expression in her eyes and the elegance of her movements. Day after day I see this utterly gorgeous creature, gentle as a butterfly, who can’t face the world outside of a crate. I know that for her it is safe, comfortable place and that she is very content. But for me it is a stark daily reminder of how trapped she is by her fear and uncertainty, a reminder of how horrible human beings can be to other living creatures. A constant reminder of the brokenness of the world. And every day I am reminded of my own limitations because all the love and patience in the world sometimes cannot undo pain that has already been inflicted. It can be really discouraging at times.
I have to remind myself that even though she might never be a ‘normal’ dog, she is safe and loved now. I promise her every night that I will take care of her and that I won’t let anymore bad things happen to her. She doesn’t know about all of her limitations and she doesn’t know what could have/should have been if she had had a normal start to life. She just knows that she is comfortable and that her world is better, and safer, and happier than it has ever been. I have to remind myself on hard days that she is not just a reminder of the brokenness of the world, but also of the resilience of life, and of grace and healing. She is a reminder too of the dedication of all the amazing people who sacrifice so much each day to save dogs like her from awful situations – dogs they don’t even know and will never own. Dog rescuers are very special people.
Mother Teresa said that “the success of love is in the loving – not in the results of the loving,” and she reminds us that “there are no great things, only small things done with great love.” So each day I try to do small things with great love, and let that be enough. Thank you for sharing Kira’s journey and for celebrating our small things!