This is where it all started. One sad little dog, an untold story but an unbroken spirit.
Emily…This is where she started. Don’t you wish sometimes that they could talk? That they could tell their own story instead of leaving it to us mere mortals to try to fill in the blanks? I do because I don’t think that I am nearly as eloquent as she would be given the chance. But this is before us. Before Emily entered our lives- so let’s start at our beginning.
Before Emily, my family was comprised of two children of the two legged variety and two of the four-legged variety. My husband, the “Daddy Dog,” was amazing to us all, and I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom who spent her days helping at my kids’ school and playing with the Great Dane puppy at the horse rescue where I volunteered my time for both the horses and the kids that participated in our riding program. You see, I have this crazy notion. I believe that it only takes two hands to change the world, and I hope to teach them someday. I spent my nights as mom to the kids and the “Mommy Dog” to not only the very indulged Great Dane but also the “evil Chiweenie” that wandered off the streets and into our lives a couple of years before.
Beau, the silly Great Dane, survived distemper and suddenly we realized how small his world had to become in order to protect his health, so we were faced with choices. Like many of you, I watched the Justice story unfold. I am not stupid. I work in rescue. I have shared my life with many rescue companions, even a ferret named Yoshi that forever changed my opinion of rodents. Justice was different. It was the kind of bad that made even people like me pause and gasp. In the weeks after that heinous act, the internet was filled with outrage and comments that ran the gamut from “burn him too” to vulgarities that I can’t share on a family-friendly blog. Unfortunately, spewing does not change the world. Working changes the world. Change changes the world.
The first thing I thought as we met was how hopeful she was.
We (meaning me because my husband is amazing and lets me do lots of things that others would not) had seen Emily on the Take Me Home Pet Rescue Facebook page a couple of times in the past months. She had three strikes against her. One, she was a pit bull. Two, she was a pit bull and three, she was a pit bull. Well, let’s not overlook her ear’s unfortunate encounter with scissors and that she had a history – a sordid history that involved being a bully and not the best house guest one could hope for.
After Justice, I revisited her story, consulted my family and sent my first serious inquiry. I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish. I didn’t know whether I was offering her a home, a foster home or day trips out of the kennel that she called home, but what I did know is that I wasn’t one of “them.” I was going to do something slightly uncomfortable and a little scary because I would rather fall flat on my face trying than stand on the sidelines and hope someone else was successful.
My first encounter with Emily was rather unremarkable. Everyone at TMHPR clearly loved her, but they were honest. They just didn’t know what was going to happen when she entered the world. Funny thing is all I saw was a dog, a bully breed dog that resembled my beloved bulldog from childhood, the ever-entertaining Duke. Duke’s favorite chew toys were my mother’s rosebushes. Duke, who was served a hot breakfast each morning by my father as the perfect way to start the day. I can still smell the stench of cooking goose eggs as his breakfast was prepared and then my father donning his winter coat to take it out to the doghouse. You see, Duke never had to get out on a cold West Texas morning because his food was hand delivered.
You guessed it: Crazy kind of runs in my family.
After a couple of faltered steps, Emily arrived one day bringing with her all her worldly possessions; a crate, a quilt and a small bag of toys. I remember watching Elise and Ashley leave and realizing how much this weighed on them. They had been advised to put her down. They had been told she was vicious. They had been informed about the liability that she represented, and yet they were leaving her with a virtual stranger. I don’t know to this day whether it was faith in her or faith in me, but either way, I knew that we had a lot riding on this adventure.
Emily, the early days.
It seemed like much ado over nothing. She happily settled in. She was a dog that loved quilts, and we were a house with an abundance of quilts. She liked to sleep late, and we were good about making the bed quickly while she was tending to her morning business so that she could return to sleep in peace. You could set a clock by feeding times around our house, and she liked to eat. She inherently understood that the “evil Chiweenie” was forever and always in charge and she went along with it.
Emily really enjoys dinner time around our house.
The Great Dane liked to play tug, Emily like to play tug, so that was a play date made in heaven. We also figured out that she was very smart. Seriously smart—like “if she had thumbs, she could rule the world” smart, which was definitely a change of pace for our family. What she lacked was, well…dogginess. Simply put, she wasn’t really sure how to be a dog. We decided that all the lunging and leaping that she did when she saw a dog was her poor attempt to interact with her own kind. Talk about a stranger in a strange land.
Emily Goes to School.
We enrolled her in an obedience class with Robin Terrell of Good Dog Fetch. Robin teaches only positive reinforcement with clicker integration. www.gooddogfetch.com At times, that meant that Emily was simply praised for being an appropriate dog but we were all okay with that. Remember what I said about “rule the world” smart? That comes in handy when you are in school. That meant that she could spend the first 45 minutes of the class being a dog and the last 15 minutes of the class doing the skill that was being taught. What began as a harrowing climb up the stairs to the rooftop became Emily’s happy place. By the end of the session, she was out of her corner interacting with the other dogs during training and partaking in a little play time with her new buddy Cooper before heading home to pass out for the night.
Emily Ever After.
I wish I could look into the future and tell you how this story is going to end, but I can’t. We try to measure our successes in the small stuff. She can’t heel, but she can walk on leash comfortably and there have been no injuries reported to date. She waits at the door until she is invited in. She continues to review sit, touch and leave it with her clicker every day. She loves the kids and puts up with their antics with the patience of a saint. She loves the Great Dane and puts up with his antics with the patience of a saint. She respects the Chiweenie and even shares her food bowl upon occasion to show her acceptance of his complete and udder “rightness” in our household.
What do we hope for her? My Boy Scout son hopes to continue to train with her until she is ready to join him at Dog Scouts where she can go on to learn new skills among her peers. My daughter hopes to make a frilly tutu because every little girl needs a tutu in her book. “Daddy Dog” hopes to get his bed back someday. Me? I hope that someone will read this and make the decision to do something uncomfortable. You know before when I said that I thought that two hands could change the world and that I hoped to teach them? I am beginning to wonder if what I have always been looking for was four “hands?” If so, I believe those lessons have already begun.