Almost three years ago, for no logical reason, and to my husband’s dismay, I started looking around for a small dog. I had two requirements: the dog had to weigh less than 20 pounds when full grown and it had to be female.
The female part was the easiest criteria. We live with a male, Great Dane named Jasper and he likes being the only male dog in the house. He’s very happy living with the ladies and I knew we’d have an easier transition bringing a third dog into the mix, if that dog was a bitch.
I wasn’t too fussy about the color of the dog’s fur and I decided that if the dog’s age was anywhere between 1-3 years, that was okay.
I also decided that I’d start my search by looking at dogs that were available through local dog rescue organizations. Forget the fact that early in my search I was prepared to drive as far as Massachusetts for a dog that totally charmed my heart – simply because I fell in love with a photograph that I saw on the internet.
Wanting a dog can get pretty tricky given the immediacy of the internet – where your heart can make all kinds of irrational demands … just because it can.
Said another way: the scariest words on every adoption web site are “Available Dogs.”
I thought I had a handle on the emotional part of this until I got an email from a woman who volunteers for Another Chance Pet Rescue.
I’d adopted an orange and white kitten from Another Pet Rescue and one of the smaller dogs up on their web site caught my eye. As luck would have it, that dog had just been adopted.
Did I want to see it?
And that’s the short story for how Tessa came into my life.
She was a skinny miss with a mouth.
When my husband and I first saw her, she was a barking fool. Every cell in her body was screaming, “Run away! Run away!” Except that there was no where to run. We took her outside into the fenced back yard and watched her.
She had a style and grace about her despite the fact that the yard wasn’t big enough for her to run full out. That joyous leaping she does now would be a long time in coming. We would finally see her explode into the air legs stretched full out, in our own backyard after she’d lived with us long enough to feel at home.
On that first day, almost three years ago, we got glimpses of what she could be. We also got clear indications of what she was.
She was scared of big guys with deep voices – my husband headed that list. Her body language was a contortion of confused signals. Was she coming toward or backing away from him? At times, it looked like she was doing both. Fight or flight – not a happy girl.
Someone at the animal shelter in Indiana had marked this dog with a kill date – having misinterpreted her behavior and decided that she was unsuitable for adoption. The folks who pull dogs for Another Chance Pet Rescue thought otherwise and got her out of there.
If you didn’t know how to read small dog behavior, it was easy to miss Tessa’s more positive attributes.
Watching her explore that small back yard, I saw a smart dog with a bit of an edge to her; an attitude that said, “Nothing is going to get by me when I’m patrolling.” She wasn’t too interested in what my husband and I were doing that day, but she kept an eye on us.
Suddenly, her nose pointed straight up – she’d caught the scent of something. And, she took off like a rocket – all of her energy muscled into taking her off the ground. She was quiet, like a heat missile locked on to her target. And, she was fast.
Fast like lightning.
How had they ever caught her in the first place?
In that moment, that’s when I got my first glimpse of what she could be … and I wanted to bring her home.
Tessa was a diamond in the rough with a lot to work with. I didn’t think that she’d be easy because of her small size. And, I’m glad for the dogs in my life that came before her because the lessons they taught me laid the foundation for things that Tessa and I would do.
Has she changed me life? I think so. She’s already opened a door into a training modality that I’ve been interested in for a long time. TTouch. She’s already shown a marked improvement in behavior from her first session. Together, she and I will get better at TTouch and that experience will change both of us.
That “change your life with some help from your dog” is a powerful dynamic. What it means for me is understanding that my job is to honor whatever presents itself in the dogs that comes into my life. If I accept that I’ve been offered the possibility of becoming part of a working partnership, it’s up to me to figure out how to make the two of us be the best team.
It’s in the “figuring out part” where change happens. And, that’s where the magic is. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]