My Master, the Dog
Abby week 1
This is Abby. She was my second foster Greyhound. She is a 2-year-old failed racer and she was utterly shut down with fear when she arrived in my driveway. She wouldn’t make eye contact, she wouldn’t accept chicken, she had to be carried up and down the stairs. She was not a dog, she was a ghost of a dog.
It was evident that this was not her natural state. She is a country dog and it was the city that was affecting her so badly. I live on a fairly busy road and the buses and cars were terrifying to her. For the first few days she would only go into the paved area in the back of my apartment to do her business. If I tried to lead her down the driveway to the road, she would freeze in that Greyhound way; cemented to the ground, long strong neck resisting any pull with incredible fortitude. I would of course relent and bow to her needs and retreat to the back of the building with her.
She was slightly braver late at night when there was a minimum of activity on the road. In the stilly quiet of the night, we would slink around the nearby housing commission grounds which were quiet and set far back from the road. Her tail would slowly vacate the space between her legs and she would snuffle the ground and trace the tracks of neighbourhood rats, cats and dogs and learn about the area. Any noise would startle her – a discarded bag blowing in the wind, a human voice, an approaching vehicle. At first, these sounds would send her into a bucking bronco frenzy and she would dart for home dragging me behind her. Slowly over about a week or so, the bucking stopped and she would just turn, retreat and pull. She was learning to conquer her fears.
I even managed to get her around the block on a big walk one evening and though she seemed ok at the time, it clearly was too much for her as we never managed it a second time. She clearly showed her limits and forcing her through them seemed unfair. It was clear she needed a home in a quiet area, preferably the country as she would just exist in the city, she would never thrive. She revealed more of her wishes to me by endlessly playing with her reflection in the mirror. Smiling, barking, play bowing and tail wagging were in full display whenever she caught a glimpse of herself. She was painting a vivid picture for me – quiet green space and a companion dog were high on her list.
Watching this terrified dog shed her fears and emerge as a confident, playful, joyous girl was a good lesson for me. I have been almost paralysed by fear for quite a few years. Fear of unemployment, homelessness, poverty has kept me frozen in unpleasantness which I should have fled from long ago. Staying in a demoralising job for fear of not finding another one, staying in a 37sqm apartment in the city instead of moving to a coastal town, amassing a never-ending pile of unpublished writing for fear of submitting and being rejected…my list of fears was longer than Abby’s and unlike her, I hadn’t conquered any of them.
This lovely girl started playing with toys, snuggling with me on the couch, her head on my shoulder blowing contented snores into my neck. She was moving forward and I was the one who wasn’t. I could hear Abby loud and clear but I had become deaf to my own needs and had learnt to ignore or silent them.
She found the most amazing couple, Andrew and Karma, who live in Bungendore on a 1000sqm block with a massive fenced backyard. She has her companion, Buddy Love, another rescue dog who welcomed her so warmly into his home and his heart. She has truly landed on her feet and within an hour of me leaving her with them in their gorgeous backyard, she and Buddy were racing around the backyard together, tail wagging, play bowing and relishing each other’s company. I get daily updates in the form of pictures and videos of them snuggling together and running rings around each other. This story couldn’t have had a better outcome for all of us. She has taught me more in under a month than I could have ever imagined.
I regularly say that we humans don’t deserve dogs. Making friends with the wolf all those many thousands of years ago was the best deal homo sapiens ever made. They are the reason we as a species have flourished. With all the extra protein their hunting provided us, we have evolved into these big brained beings. But we are foolish in thinking we are the masters. They are and have always been ours. And I am eternally indebted to them.
Buddy Love and Abby week 3