Tipping the Scales

IMG_2162 - CopyI keep wondering at what point the scales will tip for Hadley.

Will this treat, this snuggle, this walk, or this ear rub be the one that makes the difference? Maybe this will be the one that pushes her over the edge into a place where people are good and every sudden movement or noise doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

I figure we have to keep piling up the positive interactions, and at some point she’ll trust us. And then maybe she can begin to trust the world.

As far as I can tell, she’s had only two negative encounters since she’s been in our care. One was Gracie’s initial snarly greeting on her first night. Since then, Gracie has reigned it in. I guess even she senses that Hadley is a fragile soul. The second truly scary moment for her was when my ipad mini fell on the dog bed next to her. It confirmed for her the sky was falling rather than her foster mommy is a bit of a clutz.

At the same time, I know the bubble wrapping is nearly impossible, so there will be a few unintended and inevitable scale tips the wrong way.

It’s been nearly a week and Hadley still spends her days anxiously curled up in one of her three “safe zones”. These are the Frank bed in the kitchen, the dog bed next to my desk, and on the sofa behind the couch cushions (which are flipped down to keep Gracie off the furniture).

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She scuttles, quickly between them during the day, head down, tail clamped to her side, in a crouched position as if she’s ducking under the laser trip wires like the bank robbers do on TV.

On the plus side, this means she never stops moving long enough to pee and consequently seems more or less housebroken at this point.

There are signs of hope, though.

She’s begun chewing on a few select toys and even gathers some and totes them to her bed. She’s especially fond of my shoes and Gracie’s elephant (what’s left of it). To Gracie’s credit, she’s not said a word about the interloper dog making off with her favorite stuffy.

Another good sign is that she knows where the water bowls are and, as long as no one else is moving, she will stop and drink when she passes.

She does come alive outside – wagging her tail and prancing on the leash. She still clings to my side when odd things appear (one of the cats, a horse, blowing leaves, cars passing on the road), but she does seem genuinely happy and I’m treated to glimpses of the dog she really is. I tried to catch some video of this, but it didn’t really work because Nick was filming and his presence scared her. The second time I tried to catch it, but I guess she’s got stage fright because she basically stopped moving and became incredibly interested in a pine tree. Still, I’m hoping you can see that she’s not a completely miserable dog. In fact, I think there’s a joyful little girl just waiting to join the world.

The hand-feeding continues, but she’s learned that treats are a good thing.

Another great sign is that she’s finally relaxing enough to sleep in my presence, even stretching out full length and emitting little snores.

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But my favorite sign of all is that she’s really taken to snuggling on the couch, happy to be petted, and burrowing against my side.

And then this morning when I opened her crate, she thumped her tail and crawled to me (as opposed to me crawling in the crate with the leash and dragging her out). That was a first. And yesterday when I touched noses with her (which is how we mark the end of each handfeeding session), she actually licked my nose.

This may be a really long road, but we’re all committed to seeing her through it. It’s very clear to me that this little girl wants to be loved and is on the verge of returning it. I think she’ll be like the cat I once rescued from a hoarding situation who had never been touched. Once she discovered what a loving touch was, she followed me everywhere, even climbing in the bathtub for attention. It was as if she had to make up for lost time.

Hadley has at least six months of lost time to make up for, so if it takes that long to bring her back, I’m ready. But something tells me that won’t be the case. I’m pretty sure she wants nothing more than to love and be loved. Like most of us. We just have to keep loading up the good side of the scale. It’ll tip before we know it.

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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.

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