For more than a month I posted her picture on my social media sites. “Please open your heart and adopt ‘Odette’. She is a precious yorkie/poodle mix rescued from a puppy mill.” Her photo didn’t do her justice. She sat huddled in the back of her cage at RBARI shelter in Oakland, her tortured life reflected in her body language. I posted and reposted but to no avail. I inquire if there had been any interest in her. “No”, the shelter explained. “Dogs like her are hard to adopt out. They have been severely abused and are terrified of humans. Without the ability to assess her personality, few will to take a chance on her.”
My heart ached. I’ve adopted abused dogs and with patience and tlc they consistently make great progress and become loving members of our family. But this one was an extreme case. With four adoptees already, could I possibly handle another, and one with such severe issues?
From behind her trimmed “bangs”, I saw the extent of the fear and distrust in her large brown eyes. I renamed her Rocky and signed the adoption papers. When the assistant placed her in my arms, her body stiffened as she tried to pull away. “It’s ok, Rocky,” I said in a whisper. “You’re safe now.” But she wasn’t convinced. At home, she found safety and comfort in the company of my other dogs and I quickly learned that I could not separate her from them under any conditions. Whenever I approached her, I had to have one with me. Even so, she distanced herself as far from me as possible, shaking as I spoke.
“On her terms,” I reminded myself. “The only way she’ll trust you is if you respect where’s she’s at and relate to her in ways she’s comfortable with.” The techniques that proved successful with my other dogs failed miserably with her. She made no attempt to get to know me but I persisted. I learned the best time to approach her was when she was with one of my other dogs. By focusing on them rather than her she felt less threatened and gradually began to come near me to share in the affection I was showing them. Progress was slow.
We can all learn a valuable lesson from working with abused animals. Developing a relationship with them means putting their needs before our own, reaching out and relating in a way that is comfortable for them. This conveys the message that we are sensitive to their fears and care about their well being. Ever-so-slowly, that builds trust.
In our human encounters we often take the opposite approach, disregarding the fear and pain the individual is struggling with. “This is who I am and how I do things. Get over it!” My way or the highway doesn’t work with animals nor does it work with humans. Only when we relinquish ego (my way) and respond in spirit (God’s way) can we achieve trust and a relationship.
Our little Rocky is making progress. She follows me around the house and is relaxed when I hold her but she still has a long way to go. That’s ok. Her way is clearly working and I’ll continue to follow her lead. Now, if I could only convince her it’s more fun to pee outside…..
Read “Lessons From a Red Fur Coat” @ http://www.pfeifferpowerseminars.com/pps1-newsletter.html#red.