A couple welcomes a rescue dog into their home and learns an important lesson.
My husband and I were devastated when our beloved Komondor, Marley, died of cancer. He was a loving, comical and courageous dog. But even as we grieved, we knew we would someday bring another dog into our lives and hearts.
During our search for another dog, we started talking about rescuing a Komondor. We placed our names with the Komondor rescue group and started looking on Petfinder.com. One day, my husband came home with a printed picture from the website and said he’d found our next dog. There was Dennis, a Komondor and Great Pyrenees crossbreed, staring back at me with sad yet sweet eyes and a nose as black as coal. After many conversations with his foster owner, we decided to make the trip to Illinois to meet our first rescue dog.
Dennis came to us at 10 months of age. The rescue told us that Dennis languished in a permanent cage confinement with no room to stand or turn around for the first four months of his life. He also endured starvation in his second home, dropping 30 pounds and developing a food phobia. He was adopted again, but then returned to the rescue one month later when the owners decided they wanted a Rottweiler instead.
At first, we questioned if we had what it takes to heal his wounded heart. Every time we entered the room, Dennis fled. He trembled whenever we attempted to pet him. When presented with food, Dennis panicked. The depth of his needs seemed truly overwhelming.
But my husband remained hopeful. His confidence in Dennis and my intense aversion at giving up on the dog summoned my resolve. We made countless attempts to build trust and desensitize him to his fears. We spoke with other rescue-dog owners and created numerous opportunities to socialize Dennis. We were told that turning around a dog like Dennis might take months, even years. When I realized this, I stopped beating myself up for lack of progress.
Some days, Dennis moved forward; other days, he moved backward. In the beginning, the bad days outweighed the good, but little by little, he progressed. Dennis stopped fleeing from rooms. He also quit trembling at the sight of unfamiliar pets and, instead, learned that he loved them. Although it took six months, we finally made headway with his food phobia.
It’s been about a year and a half since we rescued him, and we’re still drawing out a personality buried beneath layers of mistreatment. Time has brought out more tail wagging and toy playing, and revealed a happy, comical dog.
We can learn many lessons from our dogs, and perhaps the lesson that Dennis has taught us is to never let fear keep us down.
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