Her instincts told her to trust, to become part of a pack; her experiences had taught her different. She wanted to play with the other dogs but she remembered the kill shelter where they were all forced together in a kennel and had to fight for food and survival. She wanted to accept the attention of the two legs but their behaviour was not consistent, their actions hard to trust. Sometimes, they would lavish affection on her; sometimes, after they had consumed that bitter liquid or poked that stuff into their bodies they would strike her, taunt her, tease her...hurt her. At least, that was the way one had been and he had sort of set a benchmark for these things.
Then came a small pack...a female and a male and a young one. They took her. They kept her. She thought that this might be it, her forever home, but they made many many rules and then, did not understand her actions and reactions. They did not like it when the trauma of her experiences kicked in and she was unable to follow their commands and do what they wished. They did not know that these reactions were forced upon her by the past. They did not try and work through them with her. Instead, they took her back to the Place of Cages.
At least, this particular place of cages did not force all the dogs together. They treated her kindly, fed her, took her for short walks. She knew it wouldn't last though. She had been through this before. They weren't her pack. She hadn't found her pack. She didn't know if she ever would.
Then, these new ones came. They seemed interested...especially the adult male and the young girl. They gave her affection and took her outside but it was still within a fence...a cage. She didn't let herself get her hopes up. They left...she was glad she hadn't let herself hope too much.
Days later, the Man returned. He took her lead and walked her to one of the smelly metal wheeled things. She wasn't sure what to think of this. Every time she had gotten in one of these infernal machines she had gone to a new place and she no longer hoped it would be to a pack of her own that they would take her. She didn't want to enter the thing but he made her get in though was gentle about it at least.
They went to a new place just like she had thought but this one smelled like a home. Still, she did not get her hopes up. There was a lingering smell of other dogs. She hoped she would not have to fight for a place or food again but the dogs did not return. They smelled like old dogs...maybe they had gone to the Field of Dreams that came after this life. She had longed for that field at times. Maybe this was the place before the field.
The dogs had gone to the Field of Dreams but what it took her a long time to realize was that she had been brought here to enlarge the Man's pack once more..to be embraced by its circle of love. He missed his pack-mates and wanted a new one...one to give a place to live to. He wanted another four legged mate. Still, she did not yet know that she had found her forever home.
The first week was the toughest. She did not know what she could do and couldn't do even though the Man seemed to be liberal in his allowances of her behaviour. Most of the time, she lay by the back door...hoping to escape through it if necessary. She lay, curled in upon herself except for when he put the lead upon her and walked her...which he did frequently and she liked that. He would get down to her level in the house and come to her and pet her and caress her. He rubbed her belly, showing his dominance but in a gentle...dare she think...loving way.
Then came the day of the stalking lead and the morning hell run. It was a terrifying experience but the end result was the knowledge that she actually was in a safe haven and afterward, she began to hope.
It was a bright and cool and crisp autumn morning. The streets were quiet on their walk. They came upon a two legged female and a four legged male. He was older and not rambunctious which she liked but she had been fooled before. She steered clear of him and strayed to the end of her retractable lead. The Man was not paying attention. She took an extra step and pulled the lead from his grip by accident. The handle dropped to the ground.
It was a sharp sudden noise and startled her. Sharp sudden noises had almost always ended in pain or unpleasant surprises for her. She bolted, looking around for an avenue of escape. She darted away across the road. Flight instincts over-rode her fight instincts and she ran like the wind. She wanted to bolt home but she had no home, at least, she had not realized that she did. The Man chased after her calling her name. She wanted to stop but the lead handle kept banging on the ground behind her as she ran. The cacophony of noise unsettled her completely and she ran more but the noise wouldn't stop. It was chasing her...
She did not realize that it was still attached to her. The more she tried to get away from it, the more it chased her...and the Man chased them both. He sounded desperate, upset. In her experiences with previous men, that had never been a good thing. She continued to run. The lead continued to chase her. The Man continued to chase them both.
Eventually, circumstances led her into an encounter with a woman and another man. They stopped her and the Man caught up with her. She feared the coming pain...the anger. But it never came. Instead, breathless, he hugged her and whispered reassuring sounds in her ear as the woman let them both in her vehicle and they were driven back to his place. The whole time, he hugged her and petted her and told her it was okay. That was when the first inklings of a great revelation began to sink into her thoughts and her heart...she had found her forever home...
That is Ruffles' tale, as best interpreted by me from her actions since I rescued her and the feelings deciphered from the shared empathic bond that has grown between us. She is a rescue and thanks goes to the London Humane Society for rescuing her from an American kill shelter.
I may have rescued Ruffles but she saved my soul in the process.
The photos at the beginning of this blog show the before and after of her assimilation into my pack...into my family. The left photo was taken at the Humane Society Shelter and used to advertise her presence on their web-site. Her colour is off in it. She is a reteriever mixed with a sheltie. She is looking apprehensively out of the corner of her eyes...wary of what is going to happen next. The second photograph is of almost a year later...taken by my wife as Ruffles sat beside me on a grassy hillock. The red gold of her coat is bright and her obvious smile even brighter. These pictures epitomize the metamorphosis she went through in that span of time.
It is a variation on a story that is being told time and time again on social networking sites these days...stories of renewed hopes and expanded families and packs. Yet, it is still a story that needs to be retold again and again.
This blog veers away from other recent topics but it is a topic I am passionate about, especially this time of year, when so many pets are given as gifts and, unwanted, end up in animal shelters in the New Year. Remember, you are part of their pack, and their loyalty, once given, is permanent. Do not throw away the unconditional love they offer...would you do that to someone else in your family...one of your children?
The following are some links that tie in to this theme and unless you have a heart of stone, the stories will tug at your heartstrings. If they don't, then you do have a heart of stone and shouldn't have a pet anyway...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xg2G_oINqc or http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2523972/Rescue-dog-weighed-just-45-POUNDS-months-ago-fat-sassy-foster-home.html or http://love.theanimalrescuesite.com/duke-saves-dying-baby/ and finally, http://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/regarding-my-1000-year-old-dog/ .
There are many others out there, unfortunately, too many. Sad, heart-breaking stories but also energizing, heart-warming tales as well. We shouldn't have these stories to tell but the dark side of human nature dictates that we do have them. It is up to us to change this in whatever way we can. Preferably, we could all rescue our forever friend and give them a forever home like I did with Ruffles but the truth is, it is not always possible. Other options include; volunteering at a shelter or even donating to the upkeep of an animal shelter or rescue hospital. Volunteering time, volunteering money or volunteering one's own home for fostering can be as important in their own ways as adopting a rescue. Regardless of the form it takes though, it is something that I hope everyone who reads this at least considers.
We took the wolves from the wild and taught them to be our friends and pack-mates. They have been domesticated to the point where they depend on us for survival. We have a responsibility to them now and a responsibility to ourselves as well. There is an old adage that goes something like this, When you have saved anothers' life, your responsibility does not end there, it has just begun....