SWEET BELLA – or – WHEN IS MY FAMILY COMING BACK TO GET ME?

A little over a month ago, actually not long after I posted “Putting the Cart Before the Horse”, I had to bring Clancy to the vet for his annual shots.  While we were there the vet tech asked me if Clancy got along with other dogs.  I told her that, like humans, sometimes he liked a particular dog and sometimes he didn’t.  I asked her why she was asking, and she told me the story of Bella.  Bella is a beautiful little dog whose owner brought her in a few days before saying that he “couldn’t” take care of her anymore, that there was something wrong with her feet, and he wanted to have her “put down”.  Basically, “I can’t be bothered taking care of this pet that has been with me and lived in our home for seven years so I would like  you to kill her”.  The vet tried to reason with the person, whom he had only seen once before in the office with Bella.  He told him that the problem with Bella’s feet is most likely allergies and could be cleared up, but the owner insisted on his original plans.  Well, luckily I have a wonderful vet who hasn’t forgotten why he got into this business, and he refused to kill Bella.  He and the tech told this “man” that they would take custody of Bella and find a home for her, the man left, and a few days later Clancy and I were there.

I had actually been considering getting a friend for Clancy.  He loves to play, would do so all day if I was willing, but there is only so much I can do for him.  I was hoping another dog could take up some of the slack for him and possibly teach him to be more sociable.  I had looked at a few other dogs here and there but none really clicked for Clancy.  Then there was the $10k emergency vet bill and getting another dog seemed like an idea I should put to rest.  But, since Bella was at the vet’s office we could introduce Clancy to her and see where it went.  Clancy is pretty quick when he meets another dog; he either likes the other dog right away or starts growling at it almost immediately.  They brought Bella out and Clancy didn’t try to kill her.  Hmm, there might be some potential here!  Myself and one of the other techs took them on a short walk together and neither dog seemed to care that the other was there. Also a good sign.  But still, no dog is itself at the vet’s office, so how could we really tell.  I told them I would have to think about it but would call them back by 5 pm.  Within an hour I was back at the office and, since it was Friday, I told them I would take Bella home for the weekend to see how things went, and then she at least wouldn’t have to stay crated and alone over the weekend. 

Now here we are, five weeks later.  Bella is of course still here and will be here forever.  It took me a while to decide.  I hemmed and hawed, after the weekend told them I would keep her for the rest of the week, then that I wanted to give her some more time to be on meds (along with the foot thing we figured out that she had a yeast infection) so maybe another week.  She and Clancy still weren’t trying to kill each other, although Bella really wasn’t much for playing at this point.  She was however food obsessed and also enjoyed peeing wherever she felt like.  But even if things weren’t perfect, how could I possibly now send this dog back to the vet to wait for someone else to take her home again and make her go through the same stressful process?  Nope, I told them that Bella was here to stay and we would make it work.  

Since then, I can’t help but wondering what Bella must be thinking and feeling, just like all dogs that are abandoned by their owners.  One minute she’s on a fun car ride with her human, and the next thing she knows the human leaves her at the vet’s office, never to be seen again.  The family Bella lived with for seven years, and the only home she’s ever known, is just gone.  She must have waited and waited for them to come back and get her.  Honestly, I’m not sure she isn’t still waiting.  At the vet’s office and in my home now, she always gets excited when you go near the door with her.  We all wondered if she thought that maybe we were finally bringing her back to her family.  Five weeks later I think she’s still confused and probably heartbroken.  A night hasn’t gone by yet where she doesn’t have what sounds like a bad dream, whimpering and yelping in her sleep.  I’ve tried to explain things to her, told her how sorry I am for what happened to her and how some humans are just stupid.  I’ve told her how much I love her, what a good little girl she is, how I don’t understand how anyone could ever leave her behind and that she doesn’t ever have to worry about losing her home ever again, that I will always take care of her.  I know it must sound crazy that I spoke to her that way, but who truly knows what animals understand?  I hoped that on some level, even if it’s just an energy level, what I was saying would get through to a place of understanding for her. I try to reassure her as much as I can.  After all, she really has no idea what’s going on.  She doesn’t know for sure yet whethere she’s in a safe place and if I am someone that can be trusted.  At this point I’m sure she feels like she can’t trust what might happen tomorrow.  She thought everything was o.k. before, in her former family, and look what happened.  I’ve seen the confusion and fear over and over again, in the eyes of just about every rescue dog I’ve ever met.  Everyone is horrified when someone just dumps a child off somewhere.  It’s all over the news, they search for the person responsible, the comment sections of full of hate for the person, society is outraged.  Yet six million people find it acceptable to do this to six million animals every year.  All of these animals have a level of awareness equal to that of a toddler, but somehow it’s considered less horrendous because it’s an animal.  I don’t get it, but ugh, I sound like a broken record.  It’s a recurring theme for me, in case you haven’t noticed.

Bella is safe.  She is here now and she will always have a home with myself and Clancy.  She is coming along.  Her personality is unfolding slowly.  She is trying to play with Clancy but isn’t quite sure how yet.  She has played tug-of-war with him once or twice, but mainly she just gets excited and yaps at him.  Clancy has been wonderful with  her.  He has his “other” issue, but with Bella he has been awesome.  Maybe the two of them understand that they were both in the same boat once before, in danger of being put down, but they got saved.  It still hurts,  but they have a life experience in common.  Bella’s yeast infection has cleared up, and since the first allergy pill she took, she has never chewed on her feet again.  The hair is starting to grow back on her paws and they are no longer red and sore.  All she needed was some simple allergy meds.  She is clean, she is well fed, and she and Clancy have been to numerous parks and on numerous car rides together already.  She has her own little basket in the car, in between myself and Clancy, and she has figured out how to use her tiny little legs to climb up onto the seat and then hop into her basket.  She is happiest when she is in a field of some sort and I unhook her leash and let her run free.  She is a picture then of pure joy!  She and Clancy take turns leading and following. At home in our backyard, as Clancy runs at full speed from one side of the house to the other (a miracle in itself considering how injured he was less than a year ago) to bark at what’s happening on the other side of the fence, Bella now is along side of him, trying to keep up.  Unfortunately, she would like to eat the cats just as much as Clancy would.  I was hoping that would go the other way, but instead now I’ve had to put up an additional fence across the back of the yard, just to give the cats a place where they are safe from the tenacious terrier twins!  Another thing I was hoping would go the other way was Clancy’s sociability at the dog park.  He finds it intimidating and hides behind me when we’re there.  So I brought Bella and him to the dog park one day, thinking Bella would probably love it and that would make Clancy more comfortable with it.  Instead, now BOTH dogs hide behind me!  I’m giving up on the dog park.  Some things just aren’t going to work.  And Bella is learning that her next door neighbor dog is her friend and not a threat to be barked at or kick dirt at (yes, she really does kick dirt at China).  And I am learning how to love two dogs equally, how to not let Clancy feel abandoned or Bella feel left out.  I am trying to figure out how to convey solidarity as a family unit to them, and teach them how to feel friendly towards each other.  It’s not something I’m familiar with .  I didn’t grow up with anything like that, so it’s difficult for me to create that environment.  Poor Clancy isn’t sure what’s going on either.  He had me all to himself for three years and suddenly there is this little interloper that doesn’t seem to be going away.  He is, at times, understandably jealous.  Last Saturday was bath day for them.  When Clancy was getting his bath, Bella barked and carried on the whole time.  I’m not sure what she thought was happening to her friend.  Then, when it was Bella’s turn next, Clancy sat quietly next to the bathtub, watching everything intently.  On the one hand I thought that he wanted to make sure his little friend was o.k.  On the other hand I had to wonder if he wasn’t waiting for the opportunity to drown her!  

It’s a balancing act, and we are all on a very steep learning curve.  It’s mainly up to me.  If I get my energy right, they will follow.  We’ll get there, because that’s what families do, even the furry ones.  We’ll get there because that’s what people who REALLY care about animals do; they make it work and would never consider dumping an animal to make their own life easier.  We don’t just pay lip service.  We don’t just call ourselves “animal lovers” but forsake the responsibility that comes with love.  We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.  We’ll get there.  We’ll be fine.  Bella is home, and we will all be fine.

Picture of beautiful Clancy, in the background bathed in sunlight, and sweet Bella:

Bella & Clancy copy