It’s been a h*ll of a week. Month, year, two years, decade, life.
But no matter what difficulties I’ve gone through, I look at the sweet face of the puppy I get to call mine.
This little soul, who has only been in this world just over a year (one year as of last week!), has gone through more trauma than most people in their entire lives.
She left the only world she’d ever known to go to what was supposed to be a loving, safe, and stable forever home with a forever family.
For the next few months, she had the “ordinary” (we wouldn’t call it ordinary if we forced human babies to go through it, or maybe we would–just look at kids in foster care) adjustments of learning how to live in her new home. But she had a lot more.
She was shouted at, kicked, shoved, held down against her will, and given constant mixed messages. This would result in more shouting. Worse, she was allowed to stay alone but was not given consistent training in how to be trustworthy on her own.
Due to circumstances outside of my control, I had to flee the house many times for my safety. I thought that she would be safe, but she was not. When I had to live apart from her due to safety issues (I mistakenly thought that she would be safe where she was), I held onto the tiny hope we would someday be reunited.
When we were reunited, it was for the worst reason imaginable–she nearly died.
Those ten days that she spent in the hospital, and the weeks and months afterward when we weren’t sure if she would make it…
No matter what she endured, she still wagged her tail.
Offered me a lick.
Even when she was weak, dizzy, confused, and in pain, she still tried to stand up and lick me whenever she saw me.
She never once got angry with me for abandoning her (when I fled for safety) or failing to protect her (when I’d said from the beginning that I’d only get a puppy if I could make sure she was safe for life).
When her world changed yet again, first to live in the hospital full-time and then to be discharged and move to a new home with me, she had more challenges. The first nights and days were a blur of pain, fear, and crying. She was terrified whenever I left her (even to go to the bathroom), and I quickly learned to give her warning whenever I’d get up or leave the room. If I didn’t coax her to accompany me to the kitchen or the bathroom, she’d panic and cry as soon as I was out of sight. She refused to eat, and I spent most of my waking hours cooking for her, trying to hand-feed her, putting away the leftovers, cleaning up, and comforting her.
In those first few weeks after she came home from the hospital, we probably didn’t get more than one hour of sleep at a time. I’d wake up in a panic sure she had died in the night, and she’d wake me up crying for cuddles and reassurance.
Never let anyone tell you that dog emotions aren’t real or that they don’t matter as much as humans’ emotions.
Three months later, there is a good deal of hope simply because she’s still here. She’s put on a little weight (that took blood, sweat, and tears!), we’re walking regularly, and she’s branching out into new activities.
Yet the signs of trauma are still clear.
Some, to be honest, I admit that I like. She never used to let anyone get close to her while she slept, but now we cuddle together every night. I loved hand-feeding her (but am glad she has mostly weaned herself to eat on her own). I love that we are so amazingly close that I can read her a lot better now, and I love that I feel more confident caring for her. (She almost died, but I’ve nursed her back to as much health as she has now, so I must be doing something right.)
Most of all, though, she’s shown me that I can be happy.
If she can almost die but still find love and joy…
If she can be betrayed by those she loved and trusted…
And if she can wake up each morning eager for WALKIES and ZOOMIES and sniffing all the yucky stuff I wish she’d put down, not to mention chastising the delivery and mail people who DARE to intrude…
I want to be more like her.
I want to wake up each day eager for a new challenge, new love, and new zest for life.
I want to be able to love and trust, no matter how badly I’ve been hurt and betrayed.
I’m watching my puppy, and I’m learning from her.
(Except for rolling in poop.)