Cerise the Complicated
This weekend marks four weeks of Cerise coming to live with us. In that time she’s made remarkable progress in many areas; her fears are subsiding daily and reading through some of my notes for Saving One More there’s simply no similarity to where Twinkle was after a month with us, and her sister is today. The two dogs have markedly different, but equally complicated damage from their time in the puppy farm, and it’s all different again to how things were with Susie-Belle.
On the surface Cerise can appear content, she’s keen to engage with us, and outdoors, she’s happy running freely with her sisters – this is something I thought it would be a few more weeks before we might dare to do. But, she’s sufficiently bonded with us, for me to know she can enjoy this freedom, well deserved, long awaited freedom, in safe, select places. We choose our locations carefully, and ensure risks are minimised – they can’t be eliminated entirely if we’re to offer Cerise the unfettered life of the real dog she wants, and deserves to be. Unlike Twinkle in her first year or so with us, she doesn’t flee in fear, so it’s much easier to manage her responses and get her back on lead when needed.
But, her happy veneer is deceptive, as below the surface bubbles plenty of anxiety and strange fears that are a direct result of her time in the breeding industry. While she’s confident enough to approach me quietly for a gentle ear stroke – she loves them being massaged, softly murmuring deep in her throat, as I rhythmically rub her velvet soft ears – she’ll flinch away on another occasion if a movement is too quick, or unexpected. On her terms, contact from us is welcomed, invited even, and with a tinge of caution, enjoyed; her terms are what we’re happy to live on as we know, from life with Twinkle, that in time she’ll revise these, as the ghoulish memories from the puppy farm leave her alone. And she trusts we’ll never harm her.
While she’s been taking treats from my hand when we’ve been outside now for three weeks, she’s only in the last day or so, decided that she’ll do the same in the house. Up till then, she’d turn away her head, not able to take even the tastiest, more aromatic treat from our fingers. This has seemed so dissonant with her otherwise open approach to inviting the odd stroke, and willingness to take from our hands on walks. We haven’t over-thought it, we’ve trusted it’s what she’s needed to do, and when she’s ready it will pass. And it has. To her sisters’ mild disappointment as they’ve enjoyed gobbling up her share.
Doorways and gateways hold much terror for this complicated little soul, busily working her way through her worries, and into her new, enjoyable life. She hunkers down and won’t move a muscle if she’s not ready to, and we can’t shift her. We’ve been going through our garden gate at least twice a day for almost four weeks, and yet it’s not got to be any less frightening to Cerise as yet. But it will, in time, it will. As her inner turmoil dissipates and her determination to enjoy her happy life becomes solidly embedded in her mind and actions, these challenges will seem like a lifetime away.
When I think back to Twinkle, 3 years ago, and look at her now, I know Cerise’s journey past her fears won’t be as arduous. She certainly does experience feelings of contentment, and watching her embrace increasing moments of unbound joy, shows me that it won’t be too long till she lets the happiness fully blossom. But it’s never easy for these dogs, even those like Cerise, who seem less traumatised, less damaged than poor Twinkle and Susie-Belle were. And the damage done to them is entirely preventable. If the puppy trade that my dogs were unfortunate enough to be caught up in was dealt with, none of this would ever be necessary to write about. Roll on that day.