Last week I met a new Muttville mutt named Greta. She is a german shepherd, all legs, and currently skin and bones. Given our immediate mutual affection, I have a feeling she'll be plumping up soon. I can still smell the after-breakfast chicken treats I gave her on my fingers.
Having had a large Shepherd-Husky dog, I was drawn to Greta as soon as I saw her fuzzy gangly body. She loped across the doggy loft as soon as the door opened and I wheeled in the yellow cleaning bucket. Her concerned brown eyes locked on my movements, tracking the mop to the bucket and back to the floor. I was glad to see she was not spooked by my morning cleaning of the loft.
One is the loneliest number
Her thirst, restless pacing and panting told me she had only arrived. She didn't know yet that this place was filled with nothing but love and care. I was there that morning mopping and changing bed linens simply because I wanted the dogs to feel contentment. I want them to be so relaxed that they slept through my cleaning. Each week I'm there it is pretty easy to spot the dogs who have embraced this loving environment, and those not yet convinced.
For some of the dogs that come through, understanding what their new environment is about is tougher, the process slower. With Greta, I worried her intelligence and memory could slow her absorption of Muttville's steady caregiving. Her low howls this morning reflected her wounded heart. I couldn't help but respond to each one by calling her over to my side, stroking her body and telling her not to worry, that she was in a safe place. I told her that we heard her calls and that everyone here would be in her corner.
Like people, most dogs need some social interaction. And dogs like mine, and Greta, need more than most. They prefer people to dogs as well. I recognized the anxiety and confusion in Greta's body language and howl. It had been the same with our shepherd-husky dog especially in the first year together. Going through that period with her I learned all the ways to reassure her and rebuild her confidence.
Regaining trust that people care
Given the set up at Muttville and their wonderful foster homes, I know Greta will find her happy voice, but until she does, I plan on giving her as many chicken treats she can stomach and all the affection her body can withstand. In one meeting I am already her biggest fan. She's going to fatten up in no time, I can tell.