Life’s For Playing With Is It Not?
‘She can do stairs’ was my celebratory cry to Michel this morning as I followed Cerise’s bottom heading down the staircase. It may seem a funny thing to be cheered by, but for a dog that’s spent their life confined to a few square meters of concrete to mount a staircase heading to bed and then to wake the next morning and descend them without even a hint of hesitation is a big step forwards. One worth celebrating. Two weeks into her new life and Cerise is most certainly sensing this is where she’s meant to be, and where she’ll stay. Confidence on the stairs was a marker for both Susie-Belle and Twinkle when they first arrived with us and each took quite a lot longer to feel comfortable; in Susie-Belle’s case, she never really mastered them, but she was older and stiffer (and liked a cuddle on the way up and down them) and Cerise is an agile young thing as we’re discovering.
Success on the stairs followed a good few days of small indicators that Cerise is settling in and gaining confidence. The origin of the word confidence is the Latin confidere – to trust, to have faith in. So the original meaning is literally “to have trust or have faith in an object or person”. And this is critical for dogs like Twinkle and Cerise to build, in order for them to know that they can survive – and eventually properly live in all its wondrous sense – outside of their previous puppy farm prison.
Our role is to offer them all that we can to allow them to have faith in us, to trust that we will keep them safe, provide all they need, and not harm them at all. And when they start to believe this, begin to place their trust in us, their confidence takes root, and their lives begin to be theirs to enjoy. And this we’re starting to see with Cerise and it’s beautiful. And happening more quickly than we’d thought it might, having been used to Twinkle’s painfully slow journey to a calmer existence.
Alongside Cerise’s journey, Twinkle’s continues apace as she remains a far from ‘normal’ dog. The symmetries we witness in the two lives we’re responsible for shaping are fascinating and complicated to describe. Twinkle spent longer in the puppy farm than Cerise and this is certainly a factor in Cerise’s progress. She’s estimated at around 3 or 4, whereas Twinkle spent closer to 6 or 7 years incarcerated. Twinkle remains edgy when it comes to handling, but so long as we do it as she’s comfortable with – and nearly 3 years of honing this means we get it right most of the time – she can take it without fleeing around the house. Cerise cowered 2 weeks ago if approached, now in the house she rarely does it. Outside she will still signal serious anxiety and this we don’t expect to lift for some while yet. Indoors, she’s comfortable if we move close, and no longer sits up and moves to the back of the bed, if one of us enters the room, a raised eyebrow suffices to let us know she’s aware.
Cerise will not be lifted into the car happily – if she wasn’t on the lead she’d flee – but on the upside, she’s no longer shrinking, hiding out of sight during each drive, her head is there at the window alongside her sisters, giving a noisy, barky commentary as we drive along. She likes a drive. When it comes to getting out of the car, it’s Twinkle out first – always, this is the way Twinkle likes it and Renae knows it and allows her sister to enjoy the moment – Cerise no longer hangs at the back, she’s there at the front waiting to be picked up, although still recoils from initial contact. It won’t be long until Twinkle will need to remind her who’s first in the queue.
And then there’s today. I pop out for a bit and coming home Renae and Cerise want to stay in the garden for a while. Cerise, remarkably, picks up one of Renae’s balls, just for a second, then drops it. I watch and wait. She picks it up again and Renae seems as stunned as I am as she’s never had a sister that will play with balls or toys. And then we have this, Cerise running and giving in to a sense of abandonment, a joyful, playful moment that holds such meaning it’s pure magic.
Two weeks into her new life and Cerise has decided it’s good enough to play with.