Monday, April 5, 2010


So I suppose I should introduce my oldest girl first. The girls. The pups, the ladies, they have many names. Some of them unprintable and private. Arwen is the oldest. The elder, the teacher, the alpha. On so many levels, she is the alpha. She has taught Nyxie everything she knows about how to survive in our home. How the rules work, what their canine expectations are...and more importantly, what they can get away with.
Arwen came to us by chance. She was a foundling of sorts. When we lived in Miami, we often visited the Miami-Dade animal shelter to scratch noses and visit the dogs. There is a high turnover rate for dogs there, as there are many cast offs and unwanted creatures. They do the best they can, but the facility is a sad place. It's loud and smells of feces. It's been about 7 years since I've been there, but I can't imagine there have been radical improvements.
As we headed towards the shelter's entrance, Matt pointed out a man walking in with a beautiful young Siberian husky. Black and white with silver blue steel eyes. She tugged at her leash and wandered back and forth at the very end of it. No manners, no guidance. Matt approached the man who was intending on surrendering her. She had recently gone into heat and kept escaping from the backyard. Her name was Roxy then, and a year prior had been a present to his then 1 year old baby girl. A genius plan that hadn't worked out very well as you can imagine.
So here she was, untouched by the hell that was that shelter, on the brink of a second chance. Matt turned to me and I knew there was no turning back. I'd heard alot about the untrainability and mischievous behavior of Siberian huskies. What were we getting into? Our first taste was when she dove into the ashtray outside the shelter, lapping desperately at the dirty water that was pooled there.
But I couldn't say no. She rested her head on my arm all the way home.
What a strange day that must have been for her. Imagine the confusion for her of leaving everything and everyone she knew and suddenly landing in a new home with new people calling the shots. How to adapt? Who to trust? But trust she did.
How do dogs do this? We take years to trust and even when we do, there are parts of us we hold back. Dogs function like aliens from another species, having to learn our language and behavior patterns just to survive. And we demand so much of them. Eat, defecate, sleep, run, walk, sit, when we say so. How do dogs learn all this? And when we poke them with needles at the vet and connect them to fluid lines for hydration and take rectal temperatures...what must they think? I can't be sure. I know at work, when I do these things, most of these dogs will turn and lick at my face submissively, "Please be good to me!". I speak to them with my hands, caressing them gently.
Was this what Arwen was thinking on that life-changing afternoon? I can't be sure.

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