A Painful Goodbye and a Difficult Hello

If you stopped by our house, you might not notice our newest foster puppy. That’s because Hadley never moves, unless forced. She’s like a little frozen statue, curled in a ball and hoping you won’t notice her.

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Watching her this weekend has been heartbreaking.

We picked her up Friday night from transport and she cowered silently in her crate the whole ride. When we got home, I coaxed her out of the cage, clipped on a leash, and set her on the ground, where she froze. I tugged on the leash and she followed me, moving close to the ground, eyes darting every direction. She’s freaked out from the long ride, I thought and picked her up.

She was filthy and smelly, so the first order of business was to bathe her. She sat still, trembling in the tub as I scrubbed her all over and the water ran brown. Finally clean, I carried her to her crate in our puppy room, turned on the nightlight, and spent a few minutes with her. She retreated to the back of the crate, burrowing under the blankets and towels, avoiding eye contact with me.

The next morning when I opened her crate she pressed herself against the back wall. I knew she had to be hungry and thirsty (she’d refused food and water the night before), so I left the crate door open and the bowls nearby and went for my run.

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When I came back she hadn’t touched either. I reached in to pet her and she allowed it, but she was tense and wouldn’t look at me. We left her alone for the morning, figuring she was just shellshocked after her long journey from South Carolina. When she still hadn’t emerged from the crate by afternoon, I pulled her out and took her outside. She followed me, crouched close to the ground as if we were under sniper fire.

She spent the rest of the day Saturday and all day Sunday lying on the back edge of the Frank bed, against the wall, watching all of us. We gave her toys; she looked at us blankly, not touching them. She wouldn’t even sniff at the treats we offered or chew on the nasty hoof treat that came in her goodie bag (we have to keep that out of reach now because Gracie would fight to the death to get ahold of that thing).

She finally ate when I fed her by placing small portions of kibble on the bed in front of her nose.

Each of us took a turn, sitting with her. She allowed us to pet her, but didn’t seem happy about it. Ian stops to curl up with her each time he goes by, always letting her sniff his hand first. He says he read somewhere that it’s important to let the dog smell you. Seeing my large teenager curled up on the hard floor talking sweetly to Hadley warms my soul.

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I’ve already spent hours, petting her softly, talking to her, reassuring her. She still tenses up at my first touch, but then seems to relax a tiny bit (or maybe I’m imaging this).

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Nick, who has always been the hardliner when it comes to animals on the furniture, carried her to the couch last night to watch football with him. She relaxed enough to close her eyes tucked between him and the back cushions of the couch.

She’s doing better outside, finally standing at her full height and showing a little animation as we take a turn around the horse pasture. Her hound nose can’t be denied and she even tugs a little on the leash when she finds a good scent. At one point, she even raised a hesitantly happy tail – the first time I’d seen it up instead of clamped against her legs.

It’s Monday now and the only improvement I can share is that she now lies in the center of the Frank bed, so atleast she isn’t still trying to merge with the wall.

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This is hard. I’m sure it’s harder for her, than us, but still. What happened to this little girl that she is so completely shut down at only six months of age?

I’m a storyteller, and I so want to know her story. We all do. And while, we probably never will, it doesn’t stop us from guessing. Has she spent her entire life in a crate? That would explain why she’s terrified to move in open spaces. Was she raised on the streets? Maybe that would explain why she is so uncomfortable with human touch.

I had looked forward to my “pirate puppy” all week, even more so when news came that Momma Bear would be leaving.

Hadley still hadn’t left her crate, when Momma Bear’s forever daddy arrived to take her home. Momma took to him right away, even whimpering softly in happiness as he petted her. I liked that when he met her, he knelt down to be on her level and talked to her, not me, as they got to know each other. I think she will be happy with this kind soul. I’m happy for her, even as I endure the wrath of my youngest son who is furious that I let her go. He made me promise that if she is ever returned again, we will keep her. (Even forced me to shake on it.)

I said goodbye to our sweet Momma Bear, and took my already lonely heart back inside to sit with my cowering puppy. I wish we knew what she needed. Since she can’t tell us, all we can do is love her even though, right now, it doesn’t seem like enough. But it’s all we’ve got, so we’ll just keep offering it.

It’s been a tough weekend for this foster mommy. A tough goodbye and an even tougher hello.

Just being near Hadley hurts my heart. I want to fix her – NOW. I’m not the most patient of people, but I do know that this is only going to happen in her time and in her heart. I don’t know what closed it up so tight. If I did, I might drive down there to South Carolina and get arrested. One of the OPH staff people told me, “I wish we knew their backgrounds, but sometimes I’m glad that we don’t.” She’s probably right.

This morning I cupped Hadley’s sweet face in my hand and pressed my nose against hers and she didn’t turn away. There’s a puppy in there somewhere. I know it. We’ll find her.

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

14 thoughts on “A Painful Goodbye and a Difficult Hello”

  1. This post made me so teary eyed, and then I immediately went and hugged both my dogs! My little man, Hitch (my OPH pup, who you puppy-sat for once), used to be a timid guy, but now, he’s living his best life. It’s heart-breaking to think of their former lives, but great to know that with awesome foster parents, Hadley will find her forever home and will learn what it means to be a part of a family.

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  2. Oh gosh, what a sad post and I know an even sadder weekend for you and your family. I am sure with time and all the love your family has to give Hadley will eventually come around. I am sure she has had a terrible start in life! She does look somewhat better in your last picture. So glad to hear that Momma Bear has gone to what sounds l like the ideal furever home.

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  3. Brought tears to my eyes. In the past 4 months both of my” older” dogs passed away. One at 18 years and 1 at 16. They were both dogs that no one wanted. I miss them terribly but financially cannot afford the fees to adopt another so I contribute my few dollars where I can. I hope your Hadley comes around. I cry for all the abuse that she has endured to get to this point. Keep up the wonderful work! And update us on your newest baby.

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    1. Oh Sharon – so sorry for your loss. I still miss my dog Lucy, who we had for 17 years. Can’t imagine losing two so close together. My heart goes out to you. Thanks for writing. This morning, Hadley chewed a little on a tennis ball my son gave her – a really good sign! Blessings to you.

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  4. Poor, sweet pup. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things…offering consistent love, but also respecting her space and fear. Thank you for sharing and for doing what you do!

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  5. Cara, I don’t know how you do it – this latest entry made me cry – You and your family are amazing – between your writing and fostering dogs, do you get any sleep?

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