An Angel has Arrived
When Susie-Belle died I had an urgent sense that a new dog must join us and we adopted Cerise 6 weeks later. When Twinkle died in July I felt in no hurry to get another dog, but knew that at some point we’d be a 4-dog family again. Grief impacts us all differently and each bereavement colours us in ways which won’t always be as we expect.
Loosely, when I let myself think about it, next spring seemed a likely time for a new friend to join us. By then Cerise would have had another winter to keep shedding her worries. This, she is finally doing in a sustained way and each day brings her more peace, and us signs that her emotional traumas are healing. By the Spring Albert Claude will have been here a year and, well isn’t springtime a period ripe for new adventures and growth? Those were my loose thoughts in moments when I looked ahead.
Then, 5 weeks ago I got a message from my friend Janet who rescues dogs. With a photograph. And a suggestion that I should consider getting another dog. That was it. Another love-at-first sight moment I’m not embarrassed to say. The dog wooed first Janet, then me and now as I write this, I’m sat next to my new four-dog family and Angel Star has been here a week.
Named in honour of Twinkle, she’s spent 5 years in a puppy farm and her body shows every sign of that; from muscle weakness from being cooped up her whole life, to the enormous, overworked nipples of a breeding mother; to the rusty discoloured legs and belly from where she’d have had no choice but to live and defecate in the few square meters she’d existed in for 5 miserable years.
Her biggest issues however are not physical but psychological. Angel is nervous of humans, her instincts are to move away from us – the reverse response of a normal dog whose whole being is attuned to wanting to be close to humans. She scoots away but doesn’t flee, not quite. She stands curious for a second, thinking, watching, her mind working through her new reality. But she won’t willingly allow physical contact, not yet. She won’t take food direct from our hands, but looks to the floor, to a spot just in front of her nose, waiting for it to be placed down. She’s a fast learner.
She’s happy outside, the fresh air is a novelty, but she hates the rain – who doesn’t? Her reaction this week – it’s been a wet one – to standing outside on a pee-mission – wasn’t quite as extreme as Twinkle’s early phobic ones to rain but panicky moves were in play, so in she came. Out of the rain and her bladder held on for a little while longer.
She doesn’t yet have a sense of a clean indoor space where she has no need to relieve herself in, but she will soon learn, she’s keen, I can tell. She trots after her brother and sisters as they dutifully go out for routine toilet breaks and tilted her head today when I issued the call, ‘come on then, let’s go for a wee’. She’s getting the hang of life in her new, big wide world.
The others have accepted Angel without a bat of an eyelid, I knew they would. Renae’s an experienced sister at adoption now, this is her 5th adopted sibling and she knows the ropes. She travelled with me to the UK last weekend to accompany Angel home and we had quite the adventure. Taking an overnight ferry and dog-friendly cabin – a first for us all – staying with good and understanding friends on Friday night.
We even gratecrashed a photohoot on Saturday with possibly Angel’s most surreal moment of her life so far, she met Santa but didn’t seem that impressed.
Our walks this week have been about her, and me, gaining confidence as she has never walked on a lead, never encountered vehicles, never done much at all beyond producing puppies in a dark and dirty shed. She’s coped admirably with every new experience, showing a clear wish to enjoy her days; our challenge is to help her do it steadily, building essential trust and a close bond along the way which will keep her safe and happy.
The signs so far are all good, both between her and us, and her and her siblings. This morning she watched Cerise and Albert Claude have a recreational wrestle and seconds later joined in. That’s a first, a very welcome first. The puppy farmer may have deprived Angel of everything normal, confined her in conditions we’d rather not think about, but he didn’t break her spirit. She has every intention of putting her past behind her and we’ll match that with our own solid intention to give her everything she needs to succeed in living happily from now on and forever.