As I am writing this, I am truly trying to make sense of this crazy world in my head. The world is cold, it is cruel, it is impatient, it is judgemental, it is instant-gratification and microwave oriented. (Or at least our culture is.) It is also incredibly caring, self-sacrificing, giving, patient and loving. I hope I can choose to belong to the latter.
I would like to preface this story with a little disclaimer: The Electric City Pittie Committee is not a Rescue. We do not actively take in dogs needing to be rehomed or animals needing some behavioral redirection or emotional rehabilitation. We are strictly an education and advocacy group.
On a chilly Friday in January, Ashley, one of our founding board members, got a call for help in regards to a beautiful little pittie who had taken up residence in a house that didn’t belong to her. She liked it so much she didn’t really want to share. When Ashley and Jeremy attempted to catch her, she bolted and went on the lam. Later that night, we got a call… she is back, and getting a little too comfortable. We coaxed her out of their home with some time, patience, summer sausage and jerky. She was scared. Petrified, really. She was emotionally shut down and frozen in fear. She was a bit reactionary. God only knows what she had been through that put her in a strange house seeking comfort, only to find strangers and anxiety. When we got her home, a snugglebug emerged. A beautiful girl with soulful eyes who was broken-hearted and desperately seeking the affirmation and loving acceptance from a person. She relaxed (a bit), she slept, she ate, she was warm, and for what might have been the first time in a long time, she felt affection.
She rewarded us with her undying devotion. She was so devoted that she was willing to bloody herself and destroy kennels to get to us. So devoted that she would bark for hours on end screaming bloody murder that she wasn’t near us that we wondered if people were going to think we were making live sacrifices to an ancient paegan God. When she is with us, she is gold. She is at ease, she lays at feet and snuggles on the couch. She lays quietly outside the kitchen while you’re making dinner, she relishes the full body scratches and the belly rubs. She looks at you with big, brown adoring saucers for eyes. Her muscular frame is deceptive of the warm heart inside of this dog. What we have found, however, is that she is a bundle of anxiety. She has a high prey drive. If it is smaller and fluffy, it needs to be chased. She guards her food, not from people, but from other animals. She needs to eat alone so she knows no one will take her food. Although, she would gladly share it with her humans. She feels no pain when there is something standing in the way of her being with her humans. She will gladly cut her body and squeeze through cracks too small for her frame, to reach what she desires more than anything in the world… acceptance and love.
I don’t dare assume what might have happened to her in her previous life. Prior to finding a place to be and hoping for nothing more than people she loved and trusted to be waiting in that home for her, only to be disappointed and hurt when she found strangers. No matter how kind, they were not her beloved people. I don’t dare assume that she was “abused” (at least not physically) as her body was in fantastic shape. She is athletic and muscular, she is well exercised and not famished by any means. Her brain is another story… She can’t talk, so we can’t ask her why she is so nervous all the time. We can’t ask her why she insists on chasing the small fluffies or refuses to be content in her kennel.
We consulted with our vet and we found a medication that is managing her anxiety fairly well, but she is still laser focused on the other animals. Still slightly obsessed with her relationships with people. Still a little too guarded. Still a little too anxious. Life in her head must be maddening. What must she be thinking? How must she be feeling? How did she end up seeking comfort in someone else’s house? How scarred is she? Can she trust? Can she ever be trusted?
We look into these eyes and we see the love she so desperately wants to give. We love her back, and we do it with structure and patience. We are growing to adore her more and more every day, knowing full well that she can’t be a permanent member of our home because of our existing pack and considering their needs. It is a delicate balancing act with her right now, trying to learn what is repairable with her and what is rooted so deeply we won’t be able to move past it.
Why am I putting all of this out there? Because this is what happens when someone makes a commitment to a dog and isn’t prepared to keep it when it becomes inconvenient. We are working on the theory now, that she was dumped out where she was found, and not just lost with people desperately looking for her. We have been actively putting information out all over town in the hopes that we would find her people. No such luck, almost 2 weeks later. This is a dog who is a lot of work. A lot of trying to figure her out. A lot of structure and training is necessary. Sometimes dogs, like kids are naturally well-mannered, and sometimes, they take a lot of guidance and supervision to create a good member of society. Socialization, training, veterinary guidance and supervision aren’t options when you take on the responsibility of a dog. They are the foundations on which a good doggie citizen is built. When these things aren’t provided constantly, you end up with a dog like Harriet. Now, whoever her people were, they worked hard with her. She knows her basic commands, she walks well on a leash. She can sit and even stay for a period of time. She is, however, a ball of nerves. I know that separation anxiety is taxing. It is exhausting. It is maddening. (for all of us- including the dogs) But if she was left to fend for herself, to find shelter and food and scrape by to live, that is about the cruelest thing you could do to a domesticated animal. If she managed to escape and they just aren’t worried about finding her, they have let her down in a huge way. Who knows what could have happened to her if she ended up in a different house that night. And if she was given away to be “someone else’s problem” then that is right up there with outright abandonment.
Harriet deserves better than whatever led her to be where we found her, and how we found her. Harriet deserves a home and the structure and discipline and love she so desperately craves. Harriet is a product of her previous environment. She may have been born with some packed baggage, but whatever her circumstances were, she was never able to unpack it. Now, as an adult, she has landed with us. Leaving us to try to untangle the web that is her brain. Help her attempt a life of normalcy. Try to find her some new people who understand her (or are willing to do everything within their power to try), and help her through her own limitations. We find ourselves faced with some very serious questions to ponder… can she be rehabilitated? Is there a home out there who wants to love ALL of her? And last, but most certainly not least, and not without serious consideration, does she have any quality of life if the above answers are no? We don’t appreciate someone putting us in the position to have to make these decisions for their dog. But in the end, we will do whatever is necessary to do whatever is in her best interest, and we will work hard for her. Although I don’t know what her previous people did or didn’t do for her, in the end, they let her down. We can only hope that we continue to do better by her than that.